B.C.’s top court rejects latest attempt to block medical assistance in dying at Delta hospice

Click to play video: 'Delta Hospice Society loses provincial funding over assisted dying fight'
Delta Hospice Society loses provincial funding over assisted dying fight
(Feb. 25, 2020) Delta Hospice Society loses provincial funding over assisted dying fight – Feb 25, 2020

British Columbia’s top court has rejected an appeal by the Delta Hospice Society to block members who support medical assistance in dying (MAiD).

In a ruling released Friday, the BC Court of Appeal found that the society’s bylaws included no provision to reject would-be members based on their opinions of the procedure.

Read more: B.C. court deals blow to Delta hospice’s attempt to restrict medical assistance in dying, say supporters

The society’s board had sought to amend its constitution at an extraordinary general meeting last spring, turning it into a “Christian community that furthers biblical principles,” including the sanctity of life.

Ahead of the meeting, Delta residents accused the society of rejecting their membership applications in order to control the outcome.

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In June, the BC Supreme Court ruled against the society, cancelling the meeting and ordering it to accept all rejected members — leading to the latest appeal.

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On Friday, board chair Angelina Ireland described the situation as a “hostile takeover” by “ideologues seeking to impose medical assistance in dying,” and said the board was mulling an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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

“We follow a 50-year medical discipline committed to caring not killing,” said Ireland in a statement.

“We resist the destruction of palliative care in Delta, and in British Columbia as well as the rest of Canada. Our actions are to defend and protect palliative care which is a national treasure and gift to humanity.”

The society has been involved in a protracted dispute with the provincial government over its refusal to provide medical assistance in dying.

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The procedure was legalized in 2016, and the health ministry has threatened to defund the society by February unless it makes MAiD available on-site, though hospice staff would not be required to perform it.

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Provincial funding covers 94 per cent of the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice’s operating costs. The hospice is located on land owned by the Fraser Health Authority.

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

Faith-based organizations are not legally required to permit end-of-life procedures on-site, though they must provide a referral and transport to another facility.

In leading the attempt to change the Delta Hospice Society’s constitution to make it a faith-based organization, Ireland argued that hospices are historically Christian and inherently incompatible with MAiD.

“Palliative care is actually rooted in Christian moral teaching as far back as 2,000 years ago,” she told CKNW Radio in May.

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