More than 65 B.C. patients choose doctor-assisted death since June

Some Fraser Health staff refuse to deliver death wish for terminally i

So far 66 B.C. residents have ended their lives through physician-assisted death.

More than 65 B.C. residents have legally ended their lives with the help of a doctor since federal assisted death legislation took effect June 17.

Fraser Health officials confirm some of those deaths have been within this region, but referred requests for detailed numbers to the B.C. Coroners Service.

“Our first request was two days after the federal legislation was put in place,” said Lisa Zetes-Zanatta, Fraser Health’s executive director for palliative care, home care and residential care.

“A number of requests have come in and some have completed the service.”

Coroner Barb McLintock said it’s too soon to provide a regional or other breakdown on B.C.’s assisted deaths, which she said stood at 66 as of Wednesday.

The most high profile case so far made public has been that of author W.P. Kinsella, who lived in Yale and invoked Bill C-14’s assisted dying provisions Sept. 16 at Fraser Canyon Hospital.

The Catholic Church’s Vancouver Archbishop Mark Miller urged Fraser Health in an open letter not to mandate assisted dying as an option in palliative care wards, calling it a “cruel dilemma” for those vulnerable patients.

And Miller said it’s a “terrible conflict of interest” for palliative caregivers who may be compelled to offer “an economically expedient shortcut in the form of lethal injection” contrary to their ethical principles.

Zetes-Zanatta acknowledged that not all doctors or nurses are willing to participate, but said that has not been a barrier to finding sufficient volunteers.

“We’re very clear, as is the provincial and federal legislation, that conscientious objection is absolutely respected,” she said. “I would never force any of our staff into doing anything not consistent with their own moral, ethical or spiritual beliefs.”

Doctors can perform the assisted death injection independently if nursing staff who would normally assist are unwilling, she said.

RELATED: Inquiries about assisted death rising in B.C. Interior

Zetes-Zanatta noted the World Health Organization definition of palliative care is to protect and alleviate the suffering of patients until they reach a natural death.

“The number of palliative care physicians providing this service is less than other disciplines because it’s not aligned with their philosophy of care. That being said, there are palliative care physicians who are providing this service.”

More of the requests for assisted death come from people in the community than in hospices or palliative care settings, she added.

“We try to give the service where the patient is,” Zetes-Zanatta said. “They’re usually in intolerable suffering and so to move them is really difficult. We try to make this very much about the patient.”

Under the federal legislation, patients must be at end of life with death expected within the next six months to a year.

Only they – and specifically not youth or psychiatric patients – can make an initial request leading to more information on the assisted death option.

Usually those requests go through a family doctor, Zetes-Zanatta said, but Fraser Health will assign physicians to respond to patients who don’t have one.

“We ensure that they have had access to palliative care services and pain management services to see if we can alleviate their suffering prior to them making a formalized request for this.”

After the information provision stage, two doctors must conduct independent assessments, after which there is a 10-day waiting period before the patient can finally make the choice to die.

She said Fraser Health is now legally required to comply when patients qualify.

“Regardless of where people sit on this we have to recognize that there are patients requesting this. And we have to understand what that patient must be going through to put in a request like this.”

The legislation passed by the Justin Trudeau government came after the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to prevent suffering Canadians from getting medical assistance to hasten death.

VIDEO – Right To Die: Canada court overturns assisted death ban

Just Posted

Langley Mounties nab suspected purse snatchers in Remembrance Day robbery

A man and woman are behind bars thanks to reports of a suspicious vehicle in Brookswood on Nov. 11.

Giants back on home ice in Langley Saturday to take on Rockets

After a loss in Kamloops Friday, the Langley-based hockey team is hoping to redeem itself Saturday.

Decision to opt out of Operation Red Nose made last spring, says Langley Gymnastics

ORN drivers in neighbouring communities will fill Langley/Surrey gaps as best they can

Coping with grief during the holidays

Langley Hospice Society will host two free workshops on Tuesday, Nov. 21

100,000 bulbs shine bright for Lights of Hope

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver launched its annual campaign to raise funds for equipment, research

AC/DC’s Malcolm Young dies at 64

‘Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many.’

‘I will now live in consistent fear’: Allan Schoenborn granted escorted leaves

The Merritt man was deemed not criminally responsible in the killing of his three children in 2008

Hammy the deer dodges conservation officers in Prince Rupert

The famous Prince Rupert hammock deer maintains his purple threads

‘No shirt, no service, no Canada’

Shirtless Tacoma man arrested after Canadian border officials say they found meth in rental vehicle

Nasty note on B.C. windshield sparks online outrage

Vernon’s Bailey McDonald is using a painful experience to start conversation about invisible illness

Federal funding to combat guns, gangs and opioid crisis

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said illicit drugs are often main cause of guns, gangs violence

Riverview youth mental health centre proceeds

Replacement for Maples Treatment Centre first announced in March

Dead boy’s father posts Facebook response after Appeal Court upholds conviction

David, Collet Stephan were found guilty in their son Ezekiel’s 2012 death from bacterial meningitis

Most Read