Canadian appeal court to hear case of hospice refusing to offer euthanasia

The British Columbia hospice that is trying to preserve its historical opposition to euthanasia is being taken to the Court of Appeal.

Because of its views, the Delta Hospice Society (a member-run organisation) is likely to lose $1.5 million in funding from the Fraser Health Authority, a public health care authority in British Columbia. It is also facing losing its permission to operate as a hospice in February 2021.

Both euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized federally in Canada four years ago.

Since April last year, at least 6,749 Canadians died as a result of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in June that the hospice had acted wrongly in its attempts to define its Christian identity and to exclude euthanasia because it had not been indiscriminately approving new applications for membership during 2020.

The Society has appealed the decision.

The hospice has been challenged by three of its members, including former director Sharon Farrish.

The legalization of euthanasia in Canada led to governance problems for the Delta Hospice Society, says Madam Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick, who wrote the June decision.

Farrish became executive director of the Delta Hospice Society in June 2019, when the society had about 160 members.

At that time, Fitzpatrick noted, “there was an increasing view that [Medical Assistance in Dying – MAiD] should be offered by the Society.”

Membership in the hospice society swelled last year from about 400 at the beginning of October to 620 by the end of November.

“The clear inference is that the MAiD issue caused substantial interest in the community, and motivated people to get involved in the Society so that they could express their views at the [Annual General Meeting] as members of the Society,” Fitzpatrick said.

At a general meeting in November 2019 a new board was elected that opposed provision of euthanasia at the hospice’s facilities. Farrish was terminated as executive director.

The British Colombia hospice maintained physician-assisted suicide was “incompatible” with hospice palliative care, and that being pressured to provide it was incompatible with its mission.

Angelina Ireland, president of the board of the hospice society, says the Hospice has “worked really hard to have the people to trust us that when they come to hospice they will not be killed. We will take care of them, they will take care of their families.

“And now basically the government has said that any hospice that does not provide euthanasia, it’s not allowed to exist.”

Since then, the board of Delta Hospice Society has worked to preserve its character as an organization that allows for natural death.

Ireland is proposing the Society “return to our roots and fully affirm our Christian identity.” She is urging the acceptance of a new constitution and bylaws.

The proposed new constitution would call the Society “a Christian community” meant “to provide compassionate care and support for persons in the last stages of living, so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible, until their natural death.”


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