Hospices, palliative care facilities offer physician assisted suicide

A Vancouver medical authority’s hospice and palliative care facilities now include a medically assisted death provision.

The Fraser Health Board’s decision to impose the provision on their facilities has been widely criticised.

A number of people have rejected the decision.

They include Vancouver’s Archbishop J. Michael Miller, the director of Fraser Health Board’s palliative care programme, many health care workers, volunteers, community leaders and concerned citizens.

“The government needs to immediately halt any efforts to force access to assisted suicide in facilities where caregivers – whether family, friends, or health-care workers or volunteers – selflessly attend to the sick and suffering,” Miller says.

He thinks trying to coerce caregivers into supporting assisted suicide is “a serious error”.

As communities “we must also ask ourselves where and why we are failing to provide for and accompany those who are dealing with lengthy illnesses or approaching death … we need to reach out to the suffering in our midst.”

Miller says the Church must provide more support for the dying.

He notes “all of us, not only those who are caregivers, are called to act on Jesus’s teaching,” of carrying each other’s burdens.

Furthermore, he said the provision points to an overarching concern, that the sick and lonely are “burdensome” to society.

In most cases adequate pain management can be offered to patients, he said.

“But what about the lonely, the abandoned, and those who see themselves as a burden to others or society?” he asked.

“How do we address their needs and assure them that their life has meaning?”

Miller is grateful for those who tend to people near the end of their lives.

“These men and women are an example for all of us … as we seek ever better ways to accompany the suffering, not to wash our hands of them with a lethal injection.”

Dr. Neil Hilliard, who is the medical director of Fraser Health’s palliative care programme,  also spoke out against against the physician assisted suicide provision.

He pointed out it “is not in accordance with palliative care as defined by the World Health Organization, which “affirms life and regards dying as a normal process” and “intends neither to hasten or postpone death”.

Hilliard has resigned as a Fraser Health director, but says he will continue to work with patients who “choose life in the face of death.”



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