Sue Attrill, Chilliwack Hospice Society executive director, before the society’s new building opened up in early 2017. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress file)

Sue Attrill, Chilliwack Hospice Society executive director, before the society’s new building opened up in early 2017. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress file)

Controversy over assisted dying in hospice growing in Chilliwack

Hospice society seeks feedback; MLA Throness fears slippery slope, pressure to end life early

Hospices across B.C. may soon have to provide assisted dying in house, something the Chilliwack Hospice Society Board does not yet have a position on but Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness is strongly against.

And while it was the former BC Liberal government that brought into place the Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) law, several MLAs from the party now in opposition are coming out against its implementation by in all Fraser Health facilities.

“My concern is that people will fear that their safety is in jeopardy and they will avoid palliative care,” Throness told The Progress this week.

He said the province is on a slippery slope that could lead to people who don’t want euthanasia to avoid palliative care altogether, with those who do want it, to gravitate to hospice.

“We are already very far down this road,” he said when asked about the supposed slippery slope. “Since the Supreme Court decision … 55 people a month in B.C. accept it.

“This is in part a matter of self interest for me. In 25 years or so, I might be in palliative care and I want to be able to die a natural death without pressure to end my life early.”

Where this supposed pressure to accept euthanasia for individuals in hospice might come from is unclear, but Throness and a small handful of others are coming out against it.

On Feb. 25, Throness presented a petition in the Legislature with 100 signatures opposed to allowing MAiD in hospice facilities.

A recent panel discussion Throness took part on was titled how “Fraser Health forces hospices and palliative care providers to offer assisted suicide.” It was held in Chilliwack organized by the Association of Reformed Political Action (ARPA), a reformed Christian activist group.

• READ MORE: WATCH: Politicians call on public to oppose Fraser Health making hospices offer euthanasia

The organization goes into communities to campaign elected officials to come on side with their agenda of adopting a Biblical perspective in government. ARPA Canada even offers a 12-step action plan to “build a relationship of trust and respect with your local government official.”

The group held a similar meeting in Langley earlier in February. In that city, the Langley Hospice Society has come out strongly against MAiD in hospice.

• READ MORE: Langley Hospice Society formalizes its opposition to medically assisted dying directive

When asked about the policy, Chilliwack Hospice Society executive director Sue Attrill pointed out one difference is that in Langley – and in Delta where they’ve also been opposed – in Chilliwack the society does not own or run the Cascade Hospice. That is done by a private, for-profit company.

The Chilliwack Hospice Society (CHS) provides volunteers and palliative support for those at end of life, but they have little say on a Fraser Health policy mandated to a for-profit company funded by Fraser Health.

Still, the CHS board met this week to discuss the matter but is yet to come up with the “very important decision” for the society, the board, staff and volunteers, Attrill said.

“The Chilliwack Hospice Society Board is continuing to consider the issue and intend to finalize our position in the near future,” CHS said in a statement. “In the interim we welcome your comments and feedback as we will be taking community input into account. Please feel free to send your correspondence to Sue@chilliwackhospice.org.”

As for where the board stands, Attrill said on MAiD, feelings on the board are mixed.

“People really require some time to think about it,” she said Friday. “We take our responsibility very seriously and we will do whatever we can to make sure everyone in the community is comfortable with what goes on there.”

As for Throness, he defends the ARPA campaign saying that they are not just concerned about people of faith, but about what’s best for all Canadians.

And while part of the reason behind MAiD is to allow individuals who want to end their lives to do so at home, which can be a hospice bed at end of life, Throness insists assisted dying should be done in a specialized setting, not in a palliative care facility.

“We have specialized settings for radiology, for children health, women’s health, any number of different departments and specialized clinics.”

Throness is further concerned with the normalization of assisted dying such that “death becomes the medicine for every pain that a person is expressing.”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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