B.C. doctor cleared of wrongdoing for providing assisted death to woman who starved herself

Globe and Mail

Kelly Grant

British Columbia’s physician regulator has cleared a doctor of any wrongdoing for providing medical aid in dying to a woman who did not qualify for the procedure until she starved herself to the brink of death.

A committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) found that Ellen Wiebe did not break the regulator’s rules when she helped a 56-year-old patient known as Ms. S to die last year.

The case is the first to be made public in which a medical regulator has ruled on the contentious question of whether doctors should grant assisted deaths to patients who only satisfy all the criteria of the federal law after they stop eating and drinking.

“It was determined that Ms. S met the requisite criteria and was indeed eligible for medical assistance in dying, despite the fact that her refusal of medical treatment, food, and water, undoubtedly hastened her death and contributed to its ‘reasonable foreseeability,'” the college’s inquiry committee wrote in a Feb. 13 report. . . . [Full text]

 

Has stopping eating and drinking become a path to assisted dying?

Policy Options

Jocelyn Downie

Can patients, by stopping eating and drinking, make themselves meet the criteria for a “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” the requirement to access MAiD?

Ms. S. was a 56-year-old woman with advanced multiple sclerosis. In June 2016, when her suffering became intolerable and her state of decline was advanced as a result of her incurable medical condition, she asked Dr. Ellen Wiebe for medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Ms. S. had earlier declined potentially effective treatment. Dr. Wiebe concluded that Ms. S. met most of the eligibility criteria for MAiD in Canada: incurable condition, advanced state of decline in capability, and enduring and intolerable suffering not remediable by any means acceptable to her. However, as she did not believe that Ms. S. would die “in the foreseeable future,” she deemed her not to meet the final eligibility criterion for MAiD: “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.” Ms. S. asked again for MAiD in December 2016 and January 2017 and each time she was deemed ineligible on the same grounds. . . [Full Text]

The Alarming Trend Of Bullying Hospitals And Hospices Into Assisted Suicide

Huffington Post

Reproduced with permission

Dr. Will Johnston

Canadians who are sick and suicidal can now be put to death under various medicalized and government-approved protocols, following court and legislative victories by euthanasia activists. These activists are now turning their considerable talents to a coercive makeover of the palliative hospice movement by demanding that hospices founded on a promise to never deliberately hasten death should provide a death

Before they got their way in the Canadian Supreme Court, the public posture of euthanasia advocates was one of caution, reassurance and limitation of objectives. After their victory, partisans of the medical killing movement have become impatient with individuals or institutions who want no part in suicide and euthanasia. Activists recommend expanding access to include all the people who were strategically excluded from the plan that had been sold to the public: children, people with chronic nonfatal conditions, the physically disabled, the cognitively disabled, psychiatric patients.

Now, even changing the location of a patient requesting suicide — from a euthanasia-free hospital or hospice, to one that does offer it — is being protested as a cruel imposition. In doing so, the death-seeking person is set up as a victim, and the hospital or hospice is portrayed as a victimizer. Never mind that hospital wards routinely transport people in complete comfort to procedures like X-rays or scopes, or to another location to continue care.

The implications of this are dire. Many hospices serve patients who want nothing to do with assisted suicide, and there will be much harm done by forcing it into their midst. Every community in this country has the resources to provide a distinct euthanasia-free space. That distinct space and its staff could be specialized and uncoerced into death-hastening.

The unpleasant alternative was demonstrated by the recent “sneak attack” on Louis Brier Hospital, a Jewish retirement home in Vancouver. This was the work of euthanasia activist Ellen Wiebe, idolized by like-minded columnists for her aggressive death-providing practice. Rather than arrange a simple transfer — perhaps to the home of one of the suicidal father’s daughters — the patient was killed by Dr. Wiebe against the firm policy of a facility with an understandable aversion to euthanasia.

As Louis Brier’s director protested, “We have a lot of Holocaust survivors. To have a doctor sneak in and kill someone without telling anyone. They’re going to feel like they’re at risk when you learn someone was sneaking in and killing someone.”

What Dr. Wiebe was doing by giving the finger to Louis Brier is a form of ethical bullying, masquerading as an altruistic claim that her client should come first and trump other people’s rights about the kind of place they want to live in.

Wanting Dr. Wiebe to kill you is a tragedy, not an emergency. It is a personal preference, sadly now provided by the Canadian health-care system, but without any judicial or parliamentary authorization to force others to accept involuntary proximity to your actions. It is also, increasingly, about people who are not dying, except in Dr. Wiebe’s elastic interpretation, but about those who have lost meaning and hope. What they get from the euthanasia provider amounts to a heartless endorsement of the hopelessness of their situation, cloaked in the language of autonomy.

Rather than look for a win-win compromise over this issue, the board of Fraser Health Authority, a large B.C. hospital system, has imposed euthanasia provision in all its palliative hospices. This edict, totally uncalled for by provincial or federal guidelines, caused the high-profile resignation of Palliative Care Medical Director Dr. Neil Hilliard.

Meanwhile, our governments are, in Dr. Hilliard’s words, “guilty by neglect” of a “palliative care access gap,” and your sick family member who seeks care, not death, may not find it “equitable or timely.”

Forcing hospices to betray their no-kill founding principles will not close that gap, it will just torpedo the 40-year struggle to convince often-fearful patients that palliative hospices are not about hastening death.

Fraser Health and any other misled health bureaucracies across Canada should back down. Don’t bully hospices as though there are no fair alternatives. Don’t bully Catholic hospitals, founded on a reverence for life long before the public purse got involved.

‘I thought it was ridiculous’: Religious facilities opposing assisted death leave patients in a bind

The Globe and Mail

Kelly Grant

The first time that Ian Pope was transferred out of a Vancouver Catholic hospital for an assisted-death eligibility assessment, the appointment started badly and ended worse.

On the taxi ride from St. Paul’s Hospital to a downtown clinic, a catheter bag affixed to the 64-year-old’s electric wheelchair ruptured. A vase had to be placed under it to catch the leaking urine.

As the appointment wore on, Mr. Pope, who had an advanced case of multiple sclerosis, could barely stay awake.

“He closed his eyes for a while,” said Ellen Wiebe, the doctor who assessed him. “I could get him to answer questions and he was being totally co-operative, but he was just so exhausted by the end.”

Dr. Wiebe, along with Mr. Pope’s daughter and a second doctor who also examined him, say the retired police officer suffered unnecessarily when he was twice transferred out of a publicly funded hospital to find out if he met the criteria for a legal assisted death.

Both doctors would have been happy to meet Mr. Pope in his hospital room, but St. Paul’s, which is part of a Catholic health network that opposes assisted death, would not allow it.

Mr. Pope was transferred out of the hospital a final time on Dec. 9 to receive an assisted death at the near-empty apartment he had not lived in for months.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” Mr. Pope’s daughter, Rachael, said, “because it’s a publicly funded hospital.”

Jewish care home accuses doctor of ‘sneaking in and killing someone’

Victoria Times Colonist

Susan Lazaruki

VANCOUVER — A faith-based nursing home has filed a complaint against a medical-assistance-in-dying doctor, accusing her of “sneaking in and killing someone” at the Orthodox Jewish home against the centre’s policy.

But Dr. Ellen Wiebe, who advocates for assisted suicide through Hemlock Aid and has assisted the legal death of a number of people since Canada’s ban on the practice was struck down in 2016, insisted she did nothing “unprofessional

She said she also honoured the family’s request for the death “to be kept private, because they didn’t want to deal with other people’s reactions.” . . . [Full Text]

Sacrificing hospitals, and freedom of conscience along with it

National Post

Douglas Farrow, Will Johnston

In 1639 three nuns got off the boat from France and began to build Hotel Dieu in Montreal, the first hospital in Canada. Over time, some 275 hospitals were built across our country by self-sacrificing Catholics who faithfully served the sick and dying out of love and compassion, without regard to their patients’ faith or lack of faith. Succeeding generations of Canadians have been grateful for the spiritual and physical care they have received at such places.

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is one of those Catholic hospitals. In keeping with its faith-based principles, it respects the Catholic sense of human dignity — meaning, among other things, that it does not perform abortions or participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Ellen Wiebe, a physician who is also an abortion and euthanasia activist, together with a lawyer, Richard Owens, recently criticized St. Paul’s because it would not euthanize one of its dying patients, Ian Shearer. . .  [Full text]

 

 

B.C. man faced excruciating transfer after Catholic hospital refused assisted-death request

National Post

Tom Blackwell

Ian Shearer had had enough of the pain and wanted a quick, peaceful end, his life marred by multiple afflictions.

But the Vancouver man’s family says his last day alive became an excruciating ordeal after the Catholic-run hospital caring for him rebuffed his request for a doctor-assisted death, forcing him to transfer to another hospital.

The combination of the cross-town trip and inadequate pain control left Shearer, 84, in agony through most of his final hours, says daughter Jan Lackie.

“To hear him crying out, screaming … was just horrible,” said Lackie, breaking into tears as she recalled the day in late August. “That’s what keeps me from sleeping at night … I don’t want any other person to go through what he did.”

Shearer’s experience at St. Paul’s Hospital highlights one of the thorniest issues concerning assisted death: the decision of most faith-based —  but taxpayer-funded — health-care facilities to play no part in a practice made legal by the Supreme Court of Canada and federal legislation. . . [Full text]

 

Vancouver health authority changes assisted-dying guidelines for staff

Winnipeg Free Press

Laura Kane, Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – A major British Columbia health authority has updated its guidelines for medical staff on how to respond to requests for assisted death, allowing doctors and nurses to refer patients to a colleague.

Vancouver Coastal Health first distributed a bulletin on Feb. 5 that advised staff not to provide advice on assistance in dying, but to inform patients that they may wish to speak with legal counsel as a court-ordered exemption may be granted.

Dr. Ellen Wiebe, the Vancouver doctor who recently helped a Calgary woman with ALS die, said the original notice was unacceptable as it appeared to warn staff not to engage in conversations about assisted death.

“The recommendations that went out to clinical units were outrageous,” she said. “It was basically, ‘Don’t talk.’ That’s completely unacceptable. That hurts patients.”

After the health authority issued an updated bulletin on Thursday that advised staff to offer to connect patients with a colleague for more information, Wiebe said she was satisfied. . . [Full text]

 

Right-to-die hits another snag with nurses

Nursing regulator in B.C. says it’s not yet clear that court ruling allowing assisted death protects participating nurses

Vancouver Sun

Jeff Lee

A B.C. doctor leading the efforts to provide physician-assisted dying says she’s being thwarted in her efforts to recruit nurses to help administer intravenous drugs.

On Monday Dr. Ellen Wiebe, the medical director of the Willow Women’s Centre in Vancouver, assisted a Calgary woman with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in dying after an Alberta court issued an exemption allowing the assistance.

Wiebe said on Thursday that she has a case going to B.C. Supreme Court next week in which a patient has chosen to die at home using intravenous medications. But she said the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia “does not support this.” . . . [Full text]

 

Ellen Wiebe is the doctor seeking a smoother path to assisted death

The Globe and Mail

Elizabeth Church

The physician who helped a Calgary woman with ALS to hasten her death following a court’s approval says more needs to be done to remove roadblocks and prevent unnecessary suffering for those who meet the legal requirements to end their life.

Ellen Wiebe, the Vancouver doctor who was with the woman when she died Monday night, said last-minute difficulties obtaining the necessary drugs and finding a second doctor as required by the court underscore the need for clear professional guidelines and a national directory of those willing to provide a medically assisted death. . . [Full text]