“Today, it seems that the concept of wanting treatment is coming, to some medical staff, to be seen as absurd — that you actually want treatment and not death,” he said. “You’re now being seen as terrible for wanting to be treated. You’re costing the system. Everything turns upside down once you start killing.”
Leskun said he believes there is an effort to lead people toward MAiD in some circumstances. “I believe it is at a point when the system figures that there is too much cost and effort. I believe that the system has a motivation towards moving those kinds of people towards medically assisted dying.”
That realization greatly upset him. “I initially wanted to get back at the system, but I no longer want to do that,” he said.
“I just want to make sure that people are aware that they have to be very careful when they are getting care that they speak for themselves and that they understand that the system, I think, has a leaning towards getting rid of the bad cases, the hard cases, the expensive cases. And they have to be aware of that.
“It seems to me that MAiD is being made out to be a noble choice — good for society, for everybody, for yourself, it’s the noblest thing you could do,” he said.
The Fraser Health Authority says it has enacted programs to help its staff cope with the emotional and moral distress that can result from participation in the provision of assisted suicide.
Dixon Tam, a senior consultant with the authority’s communications and public affairs office, said in an email that, since the legalization of Medical Assistance in Dying in 2016, Fraser Health has encouraged “staff to access support and resources as required, such as reaching out to their manager, as well as accessing internal and external employee counseling services.”
The authority also facilitates “discussions with staff members to explain their right to conscientiously object and not participate in the direct provision of medically assisted deaths, while ensuring that eligible patients have access to this service,” he said.
Tam’s statements were in answer to a series of questions sent to his office by The B.C. Catholic after the authority gave the newspaper previously secret documents showing that implementation of MAiD sparked staff opposition and discomfort throughout the system. The B.C. Catholic reported on these concerns in its Jan. 23 edition.
That story was the latest in a series that began in March 2021 after several FHA patients complained they were pestered about agreeing to MAiD. A similar complaint was made public by Sunshine Coast resident Richard Leskun.
Tam said the health authority provides MAiD “as an end-of-life option in a manner that is safe, respectful, and supportive of patients, families, and providers“ and that the authority “created a number of initiatives to assist our staff in understanding the  legislation in order to best support our patients.”
They include: “An ethics debriefing tool for staff to be used both before and after a MAiD provision,” providing “specific MAiD education to staff across Fraser Health, as well as education specially tailored to specific staff, such as those who work in hospice care,” and establishing “community of practice MAiD sessions, including one facilitated by the regulatory College of Nurses (now known as BC College of Nurses and Midwives).”
Tam rejected the idea that internal opposition to MAiD has contributed to current staff shortages in B.C.’s health care system.
The federal government, which wants to extend euthanasia eligibility to include people whose sole condition is a mental disorder, announced this week it will delay implementation of the provision until March 17, 2024.
“Fraser Health is working to prepare for this new legislation to ensure we are able to support our staff, while also ensuring eligible Canadians have access to information regarding legal options that are available to address their intolerable suffering,” Tam said.
Meantime, the B.C. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is scheduled to hold a written inquiry on Feb. 9 into The B.C. Catholic’s quest to uncover yet more hidden information from secret meetings of Fraser Health’s board of directors.
This article was originally published in The B.C. Catholic, a weekly publication serving the Catholic community in British Columbia.
Terry O’Neill is a contributing writer for The B.C. Catholic in Vancouver, British Columbia.