About 300 people attended a forum at Credo Christian elementary to protest a Fraser Health edict that allows medically assisted dying in hospices. On Wednesday, Langley Hospice Society Board of Directors issued a formal statement, opposing the policy. Photo supplied

Langley Hospice issues formal statement opposing MAiD directive

Board of directors responds to ‘groundswell of opposition’ from community and volunteers

Langley Hospice society’s board of directors has weighed in on the issue of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).

On Wednesday, the board issued a formal statement opposing the Fraser Health directive — which allows physician assisted death to be carried out within hospice facilities — and outlining a list of concerns related to the practice, including what it describes as a lack of consultation between hospice and the FHA.

The previous Fraser Health policy — replaced by the December 2017 directive — stated that a patient already in hospice requesting MAiD was to be transferred to a designated facility equipped to perform the procedure. This policy was acceptable to hospice palliative care, noted Langley Hospice Society Board President Kathy Derksen in an email.

“Since the (latest) directive there has been a groundswell of opposition from members of our Langley community and we have found ourselves in an extremely difficult position.

“We have heard from a number of our own Langley Hospice volunteers expressing their opposition to the directive and it has created a great deal of anxiety for many of our volunteers and staff and all of us involved with the Langley Hospice Society.”

READ: Langley Hospice losing volunteers, donors over medically assisted death issue

Earlier this month about 300 people filled the gymnasium at Credo Christian Elementary School as the Association for Reformed Political Action hosted a meeting, during which MP Mark Warawa and MLA Mary Polak spoke against the initiative.

During his remarks, Warawa argued that permitting MAiD in hospice “will destroy palliative care as it has developed.”

“It’s not just a religious argument, this is a philosophical argument that underpins everything hospice and palliative care is about,” Polak told the gathering.

READ: No to assisted dying in hospice

In its statement, the Langley Hospice Society board acknowledges patients’ right to information about end-of-life options, but says these rights do not supersede the philosophy of hospice and palliative care, which is to “neither hasten nor postpone death.”

Additionally, because faith-based hospices have been granted an exemption from the December 2017 directive, for FHA not to extend that same exemption option to non-faith based facilities, such as Langley Hospice, is discriminatory the board states.

Jim Sinclair, the chair of the Fraser Health Authority board of directors, has defended the directive, saying the point was to allow hospice patients in the FHA the right to exercise their legal right to MAiD without forcing them to relocate to another facility.

“They have a legal right,” Sinclair said earlier this month.

“We’re saying we’re not going to make them leave (if they exercise that right).”

The Langley Hospice board statement, in its entirety, follows:

• The Langley Hospice Society will continue to uphold our constitution, bylaws and mandate to provide palliative care for dying people and their families in a supportive environment, which means that we plan to continue upholding our founding mission and philosophy of care that we value life and accept death as a normal process and that we “neither hasten nor postpone death.”

• The Langley Hospice Society recognizes the right for all Canadians to have access to information about end-of-life options, including MAiD. However, we do not recognize that this right is a superior right to the recognized philosophy of hospice and palliative care. We do not believe that MAiD should be implemented in hospices.

• The Langley Hospice Society is concerned that there was no consultation whatsoever by Fraser Health with hospices in their December 2017 Directive that MAiD would be implemented to patients already in hospice requesting the procedure. We are also concerned that Fraser Health could seek to provide an even larger mandate for MAiD to be implemented in hospices under any and all circumstances.

• We are concerned about the adverse consequences, emotional and otherwise that the Fraser Health December 2017 directive has had; first and foremost to the patients, clients and families we serve and also, to our Langley Community, Donors, Potential Donors, Hospice Volunteers and Staff.

• We are very concerned that logistically, the current ‘Interim Langley Hospice ’ does not facilitate the procedural, practical and confidential requirements for the implementation of MAiD.

• We believe that as a non-faith based hospice, Fraser Health should provide Langley Hospice with the same “exemption option” it has provided to faith–based hospices as the Fraser Health mandate is in direct opposition to our mission and philosophy to “neither hasten nor postpone death.” Not granting an exemption to do so is discriminatory.

• We believe, most importantly, that it is critical that significant resources be made available by Fraser Health to educate the general public in MAiD as well as the true purpose of hospice and palliative care as reflected in our mandate and long-standing, universal founding philosophy of hospice care.

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