(Black Press file photo)

COLUMN: MAiD controversy at Delta Hospice

ML Burke writes that medical assistance in dying should be an option at hospices in Delta

“Death is a long, long sleep. Sleep is a short, short death.”

This is my favourite classical round, by Joseph Haydn. I love a good night’s sleep, plus an afternoon nap. I’ll power nap on road trips and own a nightshirt that shouts “Queen of Naps.” Like most of us mortals, when my time comes, I want to die peacefully in my sleep.

I am at an age where the deaths of friends and family are becoming too common. I lost five people in the past six weeks, and the frequency of death does not make it any easier. The coming into, and the inevitable leaving of, this world is natural but often difficult. We celebrate births and mark deaths through various ceremonies. We grieve together and alone until eventually the pain of the person’s passing lessens. Sometimes help is needed for a successful birth, which we give without question. I believe assistance should also be offered to the terminally ill who suffer and want it to be over.

The Delta Hospice Society is refusing to offer patients the option of MAiD (medical assistance in dying). Nancy Macey, the executive director, said, “Under our constitution, we are not able to provide euthanasia.”

Delta Hospice is a non-profit society, run by a board of directors with a voting membership. They receive funding from both the private sector and government. This means a portion of our taxes helps to support this society. They are not a private club. If their constitution does not condone MAiD on their premises, then they need to update it (i.e. pass a special resolution at their AGM) to be in line with the will of the community. If Fraser Health and other levels of government were to pull their funding I’m sure it would seriously affect their bottom line.

CTV News reported that 87 per cent of British Columbians support MAiD. It became legal in July 2016, throughout Canada. The B.C. and federal governments maintain the position that no doctor or nurse practitioner will be forced to perform MAiD if it is against their personal beliefs. Providence Health, a partner of B.C.’s health authorities, runs 10 faith-based hospitals, residences and clinics, including St. Paul’s and St. Vincent’s. Providence has voiced concerns about MAiD and refused to allow patients or residents to receive this service, citing religious freedoms. It makes me wonder what our progressive Pope Francis would say about this.

Palliative care is a blessing for those approaching the end of life. Being able to spend it in a hospice setting rather than a hospital is even better. Acute care is when the system is trying to cure the patient, and involves poking, prodding, tests, medications, uncomfortable procedures or surgeries. Palliative care is when they simply keep you as comfortable and pain-free as possible until the end. Palliative care can be administered at home, but often the patient requires more professional help than caregivers can provide.

Hospices are specifically for end-of-life care, so why wouldn’t MAiD be one of its options? It’s about choice. It’s my life and I should have the right to decide how I want it to end. I choose the long, long sleep. To borrow from the beautiful words of the song Wildflower by Skylark, “Please don’t wake me, for sleep is the only peace I know.”

ML Burke retired from the health sector to work on issues such as affordable housing. She sits on the Delta Seniors Planning Team and the BC Seniors Advocate’s Council of Advisors.

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