The federal government legalized medical assistance in dying in 2016. (Needpix.com)

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Fraser Health has given a year’s notice that it will terminate its contract with Delta Hospice Society for refusing to provide medical assistance in dying.

The latest federal legislation and court rulings mean anyone is entitled to have their doctor attend at a facility such as the Irene Thomas Hospice, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday. The hospice is located on Fraser Health property, rented to the society for $1 a year.

“We have made every effort to support the board to come into compliance and they have been clear that they have no intention to,” Dix said. “We are taking this action reluctantly, and when the role of the Delta Hospice Society concludes, patients in publicly funded hospice care will again be able to fully access their medical rights.”

Dix said most of the 3,000 B.C. residents who have used assisted dying since federal law changed in 2016 have done so at home. But home for many elderly people is a care facility and they have the same rights, he said.

RELATED: Residents pack Chilliwack forum to protest hospice change

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Faith-based hospice societies remain exempt from the requirement to deliver medical assistance in dying, including St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Dix said. But they have an obligation to refer people to a facility that offers it if they want.

Delta South B.C. Liberal MLA Ian Paton accused the province of “swooping in” to take the assets of the hospice society. Paton would not say if he supports the decision to provide medically assisted dying, a policy put in place by former B.C. Liberal health minister Terry Lake.

Dix said he is considering retaining the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice under a new operator.

“Given the significant financial contributions Delta community members made to build the facility, this would be the most desirable option,” Dix said. “Alternatively, we could pursue another Delta site. In either scenario, the 10 hospice beds represented by the existing facility will stay in Delta.”


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