In June, Fraser Health in Canada, one of five publicly funded health authorities in British Columbia — which denies it is promoting medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to patients — sent its regional MAiD leader to give a presentation to a meeting of retired municipal employees in Surrey, British Columbia.

Tammy Dyson met with members of the Municipal Pension Retirees Association in Surrey and delivered a PowerPoint presentation in which she explained MAiD eligibility criteria and the process for accessing assisted suicide.

An advertisement for the gathering at the Newton Library promised door prizes, coffee, tea, and goodies and said the association was “very excited” about MAiD being the meeting presentation topic. 

In her presentation, Dyson explained how to obtain a MAiD application form from the Ministry of Health’s website. She also shared statistics showing a steady rise in MAiD requests in the region. A chart showed that deaths per month have risen to 54 from 21, and requests have gone up to 104 from 40.

The audience learned that a previous history of attempted suicide “does not automatically prevent someone from being eligible for MAiD” and that “expressions of wanting to die” are actually “an opportunity for further exploration; be curious.”

The B.C. Catholic spoke with a Catholic who attended the meeting and who was so upset by it that she brought it to her pastor. He urged her to find ways to make it public, and her efforts led to a story in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.

A former hospital worker, she was concerned about a presentation on assisted suicide being given to a vulnerable audience such as retirees.

Fraser Health has consistently stated its policy is that the topic of assisted suicide must be entirely patient-driven, a fact acknowledged in the presentation.

Contacted by The B.C. Catholic after the presentation, the health authority said it doesn’t use methods such as presentations to share information with “patients” but didn’t mention its practices involving non-patients.

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Slides from Frazer Health presentation to pensioners. Credit: Image courtesy of The B.C. Catholic
Slides from Frazer Health presentation to pensioners. Credit: Image courtesy of The B.C. Catholic

The B.C. Catholic reached out to the retirees association for a comment on whether the presentation was appropriate for a group of pensioners but received no response.

The Catholic woman who was upset by the MAiD presentation said she is disturbed at the growing acceptance and promotion of euthanasia and knows several people who had assisted suicide brought up when speaking with medical personnel. One Catholic friend told her a doctor raised the subject three times before she rebuked him.

The B.C. Catholic reached out to the friend, a 79-year-old parishioner, who described her visit to a hospital in the Fraser Health region last year suffering a potential heart attack. While in the hospital for four days, a doctor visited her to discuss her “wishes” in case anything went wrong during an upcoming stent implant procedure.

“I told him that I wanted to be made comfortable and that no extraordinary measures were to be made to prolong my life. I was at peace with my God and looked forward to being with him.”

Later, the same doctor returned to ask her the same question. “My answer was the same as during his first visit, but this time I emphasized to him that I was a Roman Catholic. I explained to him Church teachings regarding end-of-life care: Keep me comfortable. Do not refuse to give me food and water. No dramatic extraordinary procedures to prolong my life.”

The next day, he visited her again “to once again ask me what my wishes were should something ‘go south’” during surgery.

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“By now I was angry because although he did not directly offer me a MAiD send-off, I felt that it was exactly what he was subtly suggesting.”

Her sense was that if she just indicated she was done with life, she could free up a bed and save the medical system thousands of dollars.

She repeated her instructions to the doctor and ended the conversation by telling him, “I DON’T WANT YOU TO MURDER ME!” He left and she never saw him again.

“They put the stent in successfully and I have now celebrated my 80th birthday. Praise God for the gift of my life!”

She hopes the doctor shared her rebuke with anyone else “who might want to take it upon themselves to play God and administer the fatal shot” to a different patient. “I worry about other people who might not be able to state their wishes openly like I did — three times! — or who may not have others to strongly advocate for them.”

The incidents arise at a time when the number of assisted suicides in B.C. is rocketing, up 24% from 2021 to 2022 to a total of 2,515, according to new statistics from the B.C. Ministry of Health published by National figures for Canada in 2022 haven’t been released yet, but MAiD critics expect similar increases across the country, especially in Quebec.

“We’re absolutely the worst country in the world for the speed of what has been done, for the way in which governments have allowed and then promoted the killing of patients,” said John Hof, a longtime B.C. pro-life advocate, political activist, and parishioner at St. Joseph’s in Langley. “We’re the worst. Simply the worst.”

In a statement to The B.C. Catholic, Fraser Health spokesperson Nick Eagland wrote: “The MAiD process is entirely driven by the patient. When discussing end-of-life care with a patient, staff will outline possible options that align with the patient’s goals and values. These conversations can include options such as hospice and approaches to symptom management, as well as MAiD.”

Eagland continued: “Conversations about end-of-life care are deeply personal and are specific to each person and their experience of living and dying. As such, we do not share information about medical assistance in dying with our patients via slide deck presentations.”

But the anonymous woman’s experience, as well as the Fraser Health presentation to retirees, seems to challenge the health authority’s claims that it doesn’t promote MAiD. An independent review of the MAiD system in B.C. is reportedly underway.

This article was previously published in The B.C. Catholic and is reprinted here with permission from Canadian Catholic News.