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Palliative care president airs concerns about Fraser Health 'MAiD' policy

Last Updated Feb 11, 2018 at 5:37 pm PDT

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Delta Hospice Society says it doesn't want to provide assisted dying within its hospices

Palliative care expert stresses hospices specialize in managing symptoms, not hastening death

DELTA (NEWS 1130) – The stalemate continues between the Delta Hospice Society and Fraser Health, over whether hospices in the region should be required to provide assisted dying.

Fraser Health has recently delivered a directive to hospices within its jurisdiction, saying they must eventually provide medically assisted death.

It’s a policy that the Delta Hospice Society is hoping it will be exempt from, but last week a meeting with Fraser Health failed to produce an agreement.

Meantime, organizations such as the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians¬†are coming to the hospice society’s defence.

President David Henderson has fired off a letter to Fraser Health outlining his concerns.

He says requiring hospices to provide MAiD would sabotage decades of work to emphasize that palliative care involves helping patients manage symptoms.

“Unfortunately, there’s been a huge misconception for years that hastening a person’s death is what we do. We’re perceived as nice people, we come in and we give you morphine and you die a lot quicker. That’s just not accurate at all.”

He says too many people already refuse to access palliative care because they mistakenly believe it’s where to go to have your life shortened.

He believes because palliative care specialists are trained in providing on-going care until death, there will be those who will leave the profession if their job descriptions include assisted death.

“I know people are contemplating leaving their jobs as conscientious objectors because they feel they can’t stay if they need to offer MAiD.”

He says its ironic governments have to ensure that everyone has access to assisted death, but don’t have to ensure everyone has access to palliative care.

“One of the things that is frustrating from our perspective, is that so much energy is being spent legalizing assisted dying and making sure it’s accessible across the country, and yet we don’t have access to palliative care services.”

According to a report by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, only 16 to 30 per cent of Canadians who die currently have access to or receive hospice palliative and end-of-life care services – depending on where they live.