Canadian hospice tells gov’t it’ll forgo $750K in public funds rather than kill sick patients

The non-profit society argues that euthanasia is incompatible with palliative care, and allowing it violates the society’s charter.

DELTA, British Columbia, January 21, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A British Columbia palliative care hospice under government orders to provide euthanasia onsite by February 3 has offered to forgo $750,000 in public funds rather than let sick patients be killed by lethal injection in its 10-bed facility.

But whether NDP health minister Adrian Dix and the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) will accept its deal remains to be seen, Delta Hospice Society board chair Angelina Ireland told LifeSiteNews.

Dix and the health authority insist that the hospice does not qualify for a faith-based exemption and is obliged under contract to allow euthanasia, or Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), at its Irene Thomas Hospice.

The non-profit society argues that euthanasia is incompatible with palliative care, and allowing it violates the society’s charter, which promises not to hasten a patient’s death.

In its latest attempt to protect its patients as the government-imposed deadline looms, the hospice society wrote Fraser Health January 15 proposing a $750,000 reduction in its annual public funding to qualify for a provincial exemption from its obligation to provide euthanasia.

The society based its offer on a July 2018 ministry communiqué that says health authorities “will permit that a Contracted Organization that receives less than or equal to 50% of their beds funded from the health authority may decide to refuse to allow the provision of medical assistance in dying.”

This communiqué “is the crux of the whole matter at this point,” Ireland told LifeSiteNews.

Fraser Health currently funds the society with $1.3 million annually and leases the land on which the hospice sits to the society. The rest of the society’s funds come from private donations, according to the Vancouver Sun.

“It would be such a wonderful affirmation of hospice palliative care if they would accept this proposal that we’ve put forward. We’re just hopeful,” Ireland  said.

“Ultimately, we do want to continue to be partners with Fraser Health.”

The long-running dispute has bitterly divided the West Coast community south of Vancouver and began when Fraser Health released its euthanasia policy in September 2016.

That was three months after the Trudeau Liberals legalized euthanasia at the bidding of the Supreme Court, which in February 2015 struck down the law prohibiting the practice as unconstitutional.

Angelina Ireland.

Ireland was appointed chair in November 2019 during a heated meeting in which the newly elected board reversed the former board’s one-week-old decision to allow euthanasia at Irene Thomas Hospice.

The former board had also in September fired hospice founder and executive director Nancy Macey, a steadfast opponent of euthanasia.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult period of time for our society here in our community because our community is so polarized,” Ireland told LifeSiteNews.

Moreover, being on her side of the debate “has been incredibly horrific” because euthanasia activists have kept up a “constant barrage” of personal attacks on social media against her and other board members “to completely try and discredit us, ruin our careers, ruin our reputations within the community and with anyone else who will listen,” she said.

On the plus side, both the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) are backing the hospice society.

“National and international hospice palliative care organizations are unified in the position that MAiD is not part of the practice of hospice palliative care,” the organizations said in a joint statement in November.

They pointed out that most Canadians seek hospice and palliative care compared to 1.5 percent who seek euthanasia.

Ireland, an entrepreneur and accountant who became involved with the society five years ago after using its services when she had cancer, described hospice palliative care’s advances in pain and symptom management in the last four decades as “basically a miracle of medicine.”

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