Ian Shearer, 84, suffered multiple afflictions, including a spinal condition and sepsis. In late August he requested a doctor-assisted suicide at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, which does not provide assisted suicide because it is Catholic.
Shearer was transferred to a hospital about 2.5 miles away. His daughter Jan Lackie alleged that the trip and inadequate pain control put him in agony.
The ambulance arrived three hours late. In order to ensure he was mentally lucid to give legal consent to assisted suicide, his pain drug dosage had been reduced. According to Lackie, there was also a shortage of the narcotic drug in his ward. She added that she wanted religious-operated facilities, like hospitals, nursing homes and hospices, to be required to allow assisted suicide.
"We have nine judges who said 'Yes' to medical assistance in dying," she said. "I don't understand how the Vatican has so much power, even here in Canada."
Shaf Hussain, a spokesman for the hospital's parent group Providence Health Care, said the health care group finalized a policy this summer that arranges to transfer patients as comfortably as possible when they voice a desire for assisted suicide.
"We'll be working with our partners in the health care system to ensure the patients' needs do come first … and to minimize the discomfort and pain," he said.
St. Paul's Hospital does not host the medical assessment or the signing of consent forms required by the assisted suicide law.
"Life is sacred and the dignity of the person is important," Michael Shea, president of the Catholic Alliance for Canada, told the National Post. "These organizations neither prolong dying nor hasten death, and that's a pretty fundamental value for them."
Shanaaz Gokool, who heads the pro-assisted suicide group Dying with Dignity, charged that facilities that do not provide assisted suicide cause suffering for transferred patients and deny them a right to a legal procedure in places where faith-based health care organizations are the only provider.
"This is going to be a real issue, and it's going to be a real issue across the country," Gokool said.
The Canadian newspaper the Catholic Register in an Oct. 13 editorial drew a warning from the controversy.
(Story continues below)
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"What is playing out in Vancouver is just the beginning," it said. "Catholic and other faith-based institutions across Canada will face increasing public and political pressure to set aside religious and conscience objections to facilitate assisted suicide."
The editorial noted that organ transplants and other surgeries are routinely referred to other hospitals, and Catholic hospitals are not forced to perform abortions.
"But the assisted-suicide lobby offers no such hint of religious tolerance or accommodation when it comes to their issue," the Catholic Register said.