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Delta Hospice head says B.C. policy could force people ‘into euthanizing themselves’

Medical aid in dying was legalized in Quebec in 2014 and then across Canada in June 2016.
Medical aid in dying was legalized in Quebec in 2014 and then across Canada in June 2016. Getty Images

The president of the Delta Hospice Society is accusing the government of trying to force palliative care facilities to euthanize their clients.

In a feisty exchange with CKNW radio host Lynda Steele, Angelina Ireland claimed government is not trying to uphold a right to access medical assistance in dying (MAiD) but is promoting a policy “that people should be forced.”

READ MORE: Hospice’s refusal to provide assisted death causing ‘anxiety:’ B.C. mayor

“We’re gravely concerned that people are going to be forced into euthanizing themselves because there’s no palliative care facilities, that these hospice and palliative care facilities are turning into euthanasia, you know, places,” she said.

LISTEN: CKNW’s Lynda Steele talks about MAiD with Delta Hospice Society president Angelina Ireland

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We should also ask ourselves what is the motivation that the government is so bent on providing so much euthanasia to people?” she asked.

“Is it because that euthanizing people at $400 a pop is much cheaper than having them in a palliative care facility?”

The British Columbia government has announced that it’s withdrawing $1.5 million in annual funding to the society starting next year if it does not comply with provincial policy on MAiD.

Minister Adrian Dix gave the requisite one-year notice in February, saying the money covers 94 per cent of costs for the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice on land that is owned by the Fraser Health Authority.

“This decision to end this contract is final and will not change,” Dix said in a statement Friday.

Medical assistance in dying became legal in Canada in 2016, under strict conditions.

READ MORE: A hospice must provide a medically-assisted death if a patient asks: Fraser Health

The society is holding an extraordinary general meeting to vote on a new constitution next month, which includes a passage describing the group as a “Christian community that furthers biblical principals governed by the Triune of God.”

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“Palliative care is actually rooted in Christian moral teaching as far back as 2000 years ago,” said Ireland.

The society has been accused of rejecting Delta residents who oppose the change as members ahead of that meeting.

Ireland told CKNW the rejections were the result of a 1,500 member cap, and not ideologically motivated.

Ireland said people who want MAiD can get it done in another facility. In an interview with the Canadian Press, she said three patients had requested it, but two went home to die and other hand a procedure at a nearby hospital.

Faith-based organizations are not required to perform MAiD on site, but must provide a referral and transport for patients who want the service. The Delta Hospice Society is not officially a faith-based organization, and as such must allow the provision on-site, though aren’t required to perform the procedure themselves, said North Delta MLA Ravi Khalon.

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Kahlon said the society’s hospice receives public funding and is on public land, and as such should reflect the wishes of the community.

“If they don’t follow through on the commitments that the organization has to make, they do lose the opportunity for their facility, their land and the funding that goes with it,” Kahlon told CKNW.

“What’s critically important for people in my community certainly is that they want to know that this service will still be available for people in our community. And the minister of health has made that clear that the hospice services will still be available, it just won’t be done by the Delta Hospice Society.

-With files from the Canadian Press