While to be eligible a patient does not have to have a fatal condition, they must meet a criterion variously expressed as they “can expect to die in the near future”, that natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” in the “not too distant” future, or that they are “declining towards death.”
The national health ministry of Canada claims there are safeguards to ensure that those requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide “are able to make health care decisions for themselves” and “request the service of their own free will.”
However, a registered nurse who works at a hospice in the Fraser Health region spoke to BC Catholic on condition of anonymity, and said that in her experience, doctors assessing incoming patients inform them of the possibility of assisted suicide but, as a matter of course, do not describe alternatives, such as palliative care.
Pro-life advocates, such as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, have repeatedly challenged the government to upgrade and promote palliative care options instead of assisted suicide laws.
Dr. Williard Johnston of Vancouver, a family physician who is also the head of the B.C. branch of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told BC Catholic that he believes medical staffs’ mere introduction of the possibility of assisted suicide puts undue pressure on patients when they are the most vulnerable.
Fraser Health’s communications office did not respond to BC Catholic’s request for immediate comment.
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Fraser Health earlier this year revoked $1.5 million in funding from Delta Hospice Society, as well as its permission to operate as a hospice, because of the organization’s opposition to euthanasia.
Founded in 1991, Delta Hospice Society ran a 10-bed hospice and in February 2021 had to lay off its entire staff.
Religious hospitals in Canada are not forced to provide euthanasia, but no such conscience rights exist for secular institutions like the Delta Hospice Society. Delta Hospice shut down on Feb. 24.