An investigation by The B.C. Catholic, a newspaper of the Catholic archdiocese of Vancouver, Canada, has revealed that doctors and nurses within the Fraser Health Authority system are offering and even encouraging patients to consider assisted suicide. According to its website, Fraser Health Authority is responsible for health and hospital services to over 1.8 million people in 20 communities throughout British Columbia.
While assisted suicide — called Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) — is legal in Canada, it comes with the important stipulation that the patient must make a request to die without any outside influence or pressure. According to The B.C. Catholic, Fraser Health itself reaffirms this belief, stating within its policies that MAiD should be “entirely patient-driven.”
While these stipulations appear on paper, it seems they aren’t being put into practice. The B.C. Catholic launched its investigation after hearing complaints from patients and concerned family members, including a woman who was said that she was repeatedly told to consider assisted suicide while she was in the hospital recovering from a serious illness. The woman told the paper that she was “pestered, pressured, and discouraged at a time when she needed all her strength to recover.”
The paper also spoke with Dr. Willard Johnson, head of the B.C. branch of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. In an interview, Dr. Johnson said that Fraser Health “quite aggressively started pushing euthanasia in every corner” within its health care system after it was legalized in 2016.
The news organization interviewed a nurse within the Fraser Health system who wished to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions. That nurse revealed that most doctors inform patients of assisted suicide as a matter of course, but they often fail to share information on palliative health sedation, which is aimed at relieving distress in the last hours or days of a terminally ill person’s life. In fact, she claimed the nurses were prohibited from informing patients about palliative sedation alternatives to their suffering.
While The B.C. Catholic’s investigation focused on Fraser Health, it is not the only health system that has received complaints about coercive tactics regarding assisted suicide. Other prominent cases include an Ontario man who recorded hospital staff promoting assisted death in 2018 when they would not provide him with assisted home care, and a mentally ill man who was euthanized in 2019 even though his family claims he was not critically ill.
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said these stories aren’t surprising. While authorities intended to put safeguards in place to ensure that MAiD is patient-driven, most euthanasia advocates ignore the rules in the name of ensuring that patients are informed of their right to die.
These breaches in policy are particularly worrying in the face of what’s to come. Canada is currently considering Bill C-7, which would allow someone to choose assisted suicide even if their death is not “foreseeable.” This will likely mean that even more people will be offered death as an alternative to healing or palliative care. It’s clear that in light of these violations already, the country’s most vulnerable populations will continue to suffer assault under such pro-death policies.
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