Dying with Dignity may challenge Ontario law exempting religious hospitals from offering assisted death

At least 631 people have chosen a medically assisted death since it became legal, coroner tells CBC News

CBC News

Laura Fraser

While more than 630 Ontarians to date have legally ended their lives with the help of a nurse or doctor, none have been able to do so within the walls of a hospital that has historic ties to the Catholic Church.

But advocates for medically assisted dying argue that since these are public-funded health-care centres, they are bound to offer the option — even though Ontario law currently exempts any person or institution that objects.

It’s legislation that Dying With Dignity Canada may challenge in court, according to the group’s CEO. . . [Full text]


B.C. quietly creates system to help patients access medically assisted dying

Vancouver Sun

Bethany Lindsay

While other provinces try to piece together programs coordinating care for patients who want medical help ending their lives, B.C.’s health authorities have quietly created a system that’s winning praise from advocates.

This weekend, Ontario’s health minister said he hopes to develop a system that would allow patients to bypass doctors who object to assisted death, and connect them with health-care providers who can help. A similar system has been in place across B.C. for months already, according to Sue Hughson of Dying with Dignity Canada’s Vancouver chapter.

“We’re ahead, I’m happy to say. I was reading this (news story) and I was gloating a little bit, although I don’t like to gloat,” she said. . . [Full text]


Catholic health workers face crisis of conscience

The Catholic Register

Michael Swan

TORONTO – Dr. Luigi Castagna doesn’t think of practicing medicine as a protest movement. But a stalemate over conscience rights for doctors who object to physician-assisted dying may change that.

“We may have to resort to civil disobedience,” Castagna told The Catholic Register.

Castagna is a member and former president of the St. Joseph Moscati Toronto Catholic Doctors’ Guild. He doesn’t think helping a patient commit suicide is good medicine and he doesn’t think he should refer suicidal patients to doctors who believe it their duty to accommodate requests for death.

“You do, on occasion, encounter suicidal patients,” said Castagna. “That’s how we saw them before the (Supreme Court) decision. They were suicidal. It’s a psychological condition and you find out the reason. You do what you do with any patient. You do a history, a physical examination. You establish a diagnosis and you treat them. Successful treatment means that they now wish to live again.”

Given the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario policy that forces doctors to provide an “effective referral” for any recognized, legal medical procedure or treatment, even in those cases where the doctor objects on moral or religious grounds, there is great fear among members of the Doctors’ Guild they will be forced to refer for assisted suicide. . . [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]