Cloverdale-Langley City MP Tamara Jansen spoke on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, against proposed amendments to MAiD that would make more groups eligible, calling the Senate amendments a ‘Frankenstein bill’ (House of Commons video image)

OPINION: The grim future of palliative care in British Columbia

Takeover of Delta Hospice by Fraser Health is a major step toward the dismantling of palliative care in B.C.

By Tamara Jansen, MP for Cloverdale Langley-City

The Fraser Health Palliative Care Program was once recognized by Dr. José Pereira, co-founder of Pallium Canada, as one of the three best palliative programs in Canada.

This is no longer the case.

Today, Delta Hospice had its own building taken away by the Fraser Health authority for refusing to offer MAID on its premises, despite it being available in the neighbouring building.

Dr. Neil Hilliard, former Program Medical Director of the Fraser Health Palliative Care Program, recently testified at Senate as part of a study on Bill C-7, a bill to expand access to euthanasia for those not near death, and his submission was an eye opener.

Dr. Hilliard walked the Senate through the sad story of how after the implementation of MAID at the federal level in 2016, and the election of an NDP government in BC in 2017, we saw the speedy dismantling of our top-notch Palliative Care Program, which led to resignations and loss of service.

Although “Fraser Health-led patient and family focused research in the palliative approach to care was recognized internationally as a leader in its research in treatment of intractable symptoms at the end of life, such as treating unbearable pain or distressing confusion,” things began to fall apart quickly.

In his submission, Dr. Hilliard testified that “The Fraser Health solution to providing enough resources for MAID has included using scarce palliative care resources for the provision of MAID.”

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Dr. Hilliard explained that in the beginning, the Fraser Health guideline was for a doctor to only discuss MAID with a patient once they initiated a request. However, he stated that now “there are known incidents of MAID being offered by physicians to patients on first presentation to the emergency department as an option to relieve suffering.”

So, it would appear that before ensuring that patients are receiving access to adequate medical interventions, we are now offering euthanasia as a first option.

Most Canadians may not even be aware that Canada has a Framework on Palliative Care that states that a request for physician-assisted death cannot be truly voluntary if the option of palliative care is not available to alleviate a person’s suffering.

By redefining palliative care to include the provision of MAID, access to palliative care has been compromised.

Today we see a continuation of this destructive policy with the takeover of Delta Hospice which has been fighting to hold true to their original mission, to help patients live their best life until their natural death.

We seem to be forgetting that palliative care and MAID are fundamentally separate practices. Every Canadian palliative care organization, international palliative care organization, and the WHO maintain that palliative care is not intended to hasten or postpone death, but rather to attend to a patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

Fraser Health has been militant in their insistence that all hospices (except faith-based) make space for what is not even considered palliative care by the World Health Organization. They have refused all attempts by Delta Hospice to find a compromise.

And so, we arrive at today. That slippery slope we heard about back in 2015 is starting to look a whole lot like a runaway freight train.

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Cloverdale Reporter