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After criticism, MUHC clarifies its assisted-dying policy

MUHC clarifies assisted-dying policy
WATCH ABOVE: The MUHC explains that it chose to separate its palliative care and assisted-dying departments in order to make sure all its patients are comfortable, no matter what they choose. Global's Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports.

MONTREAL – Doctors at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) were eager to set the record straight about their right-to-die policy for patients, Monday afternoon.

Doctors confirmed patients now have access to medically assisted death in the hospital’s palliative care unit.

READ MORE: Quebec health minister tells MUHC to offer doctor-assisted death to palliative patients

The institution was responding to criticism for how it handled the case of a patient who asked for a medically assisted death in April.

With consent from the patient and their family, the patient was transferred from the MUHC’s palliative care unit to another section of the hospital in order receive assisted-dying care.

READ MORE: Future unclear for new Quebec doctors

Last week, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette criticized the decision and the hospital’s policy, which required patients be in the care of the MUHC within the last 18 months prior to requesting help to die.

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“The administration, in its new rules … is not in my mind respecting the law. There is no legal justification for this institution to ask for an 18-month period,” he said at the time.

READ MORE: Quebec has longest emergency room wait times in western world: report

On Monday, MUHC doctors explained they weren’t trying to avoid the law.

READ MORE: Quebec Health Minister prescribes solution for family doctor problem

They said they were only trying to make sure palliative care patients didn’t feel like they were being encouraged to accept assisted dying.

“That was one of the concerns we had having the act take place on the unit,” said Dr. Manuel Borod, director of supportive and palliative care programs at the MUHC.

“Patients would feel unsafe and they would feel that there was already a thought of having their death accelerated by being on our unit.”

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The MUHC said it will review its right-to-die policy and that changes will come into effect in the next few weeks.