Citizens for Patient Safety
To Ms. Karen Matty, Chair of the Fraser Health Authority Board of Directors
Mr. John Bethel, Chair of Quality Control Committee of the Fraser Health Authority Board
cc: Honorable Christy Clark, Premier of BC; Honorable Dr. Terry Lake, Minister of Health;
Re: Provision of Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) in hospices and palliative care units in the Fraser Health Authority
As concerned citizens, it has come to our attention that all non-faith-based hospices and palliative care units in the Fraser Health Authority may be required to offer euthanasia and assisted suicide (MAiD) on their premises. This is extremely distressing and would destroy the strong hospice and palliative care system in Fraser Health. The World Health Organization defines palliative care as encompassing whole person care for patients and families that treats all symptoms with excellence and compassion and “neither hastens nor prolongs natural death.” Clearly, this care does not include euthanasia or assisted suicide (MAiD).
Patients at end of life are extremely vulnerable, and those who have chosen hospice or palliative care must be completely confident that they will be safe and treated without reference or exposure to hastened death in any form. Decades of dedicated effort and education have been invested to reassure patients and the public that palliative care does NOT seek to hasten death. How sad to unravel all this careful work! Studies and statistics in jurisdictions where MAiD is already practiced confirm that wrongful deaths do occur despite so-called “safeguards.” Mandating, or even allowing, MAiD to be practiced in hospice or palliative care facilities would seriously undermine patient safety and comfort. Trust will be eroded and suffering will be greatly increased for many patients and families if the crucial perception of refuge and sanctuary is compromised in any way. Hospices and palliative care units are designed to function as integrated communities, and patients and families are very aware of all that happens, is discussed and is recommended there. This will be true of everything regarding MAiD, and will, without a doubt, cause fear and confusion, deterring many from seeking the help they desperately need. This may even mean that some would choose to avoid palliative care units and hospice facilities altogether or to go to faith-based facilities which may be far from their homes and loved ones, outcomes that would reflect very poorly on end of life care in Fraser Health.
Providing MAiD in specific, designated facilities that are distinct and separate from hospice and palliative care would go a long way to preventing some of these negative consequences of MAiD. It would also ensure that those who seek and qualify for these procedures have access to facilities that have the expertise and resources to accommodate these requests in a timely and respectful manner.
When dealing with particularly vulnerable patients, those in authority have the critical responsibility to reduce risks and to minimize harm. A complete separation between MAiD and palliative and hospice care is crucial in maintaining patient safety and reducing both the tragedy and the liability of wrongful deaths.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.