New Ontario Bill 41 letter-writing toolkit: Tell Queen's Park to put patient rights ahead of hospitals' politics

Send Queen's Park's Standing Committee of the Legislature a powerful message in support of patients' rights. Act by Nov. 23!

Dozens of Ontario publicly funded hospitals, hospices and long-term care homes refuse to allow patients to have their right to a peaceful death happen within their premises. Some don’t even allow patients to consult with their physicians on their end-of-life choice to a dignified death.

Now, a quietly added sentence to the Ontario government’s new healthcare bill threatens to cement this unfair barrier to assisted dying access in place. This toolkit instructs DWDC supporters on how to share their views on this revision to the legislative committee that’s currently reviewing the bill. 

Written submissions will be accepted until November 23, 2016 at 6 p.m. ET, so act now!

What is Bill 41, and how could it affect Ontarians’ access to assisted dying?

In the spring, the Ontario government tabled the Patients First Act, a broad piece of legislation aimed at improving the quality of healthcare delivery in the province. 

When it was first tabled in the spring, the bill proposed giving Ontario’s health minister the power to issue binding policy directives to a hospital board in response to a provincial investigation into its operations. Allowing the minister to intervene when a hospital is found to have mismanaged funds or abused patients’ rights seemed like a good idea. And to us, it represented a possible path to reigning in hospitals that refuse to respect Ontarians’ right to a peaceful death.

But something happened over the summer. Liberal Health Minister Eric Hoskins had to re-introduce this fall the legislation after Premier Kathleen Wynne prorogued the legislature. Without fanfare, the government slipped an alarming addition into the bill. The proposed law still allows the health minister to issue policy directives to hospital boards, but now there’s a catch: He can’t tell the board of a faith-based but publicly funded hospital to allow treatments that conflict with its religion’s point of view. If Bill 41 becomes law, the wording in this sub-amendment would give unelected members of public hospital boards — who are not necessarily accountable to the general public — final say over whether assisted dying may take place at their facilities. 

The passage in question, Section 46.2, amends the existing Public Hospitals Act by allowing the health minister to issue binding directives to the boards of public hospitals in response to a provincial investigation into their activities.

(2)  The Act is amended by adding the following section:

Directives by Minister

(1)  The Minister may issue operational or policy directives to the board of a hospital where the Minister considers it to be in the public interest to do so.

Restriction

(2)  A directive shall not unjustifiably as determined under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms require the board of a hospital that is associated with a religious organization to provide a service that is contrary to the religion related to the organization.

What are the consequences?

Any healthcare institutions that receive public funds should not force dying Canadians to travel — sometimes over long distances — in order to access their right to a peaceful death. Allowing their continuing refusal to permit assisted death on their premises constitutes a violation of their duty as public healthcare providers to ensure compassionate, non-judgmental care to Ontarians at end of life. In many Ontario communities where the only public hospital is operated by a religious organization — as is the case in Pembroke, Mattawa and Elliot Lake — lengthy, painful transfers would be forced on patients who chose to exercise their right to a dignified death.

What can you do?

DWDC encourages supporters to send their feedback to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly, which is reviewing Bill 41.

You can provide written submissions through email directly to the Clerk of the Standing Committee, Trevor Day, at tday@ola.org. You can also mail a letter to the following address:

Trevor Day
99 Wellesley Street West Room 1405
Whitney Block Queen's Park Toronto, ON M7A 1A2 

You can also send your written comments to Minister of Health Eric Hoskins by email at ccu.moh@ontario.ca. If you prefer to use regular mail, you can address your letter to:

Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health
Hepburn Block 10th Floor
80 Grosvenor St., Toronto, ON M7A 2C4

And you can also send your written comments to Premier Kathleen Wynne by email at kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org. If you prefer to use regular mail, you can address your letter to

Kathleen Wynne, Premier
Legislative Building, Room 281
Queen's Park, Toronto, ON M7A 1A1 

Letter Writing Toolkit

Here are some guidelines to assist you in writing to the Committee

Executive Summary: 

Introduce your letter with a brief summary of your key recommendations or concerns, using two or three bullet points. Sample prompts include: 

  • “Patients who meet the legal criteria for a medical aid in dying should not be made to suffer through painful transfers and delays…”
  • “I found very troubling the addition of the sub-amendment to Bill 41 that stops the health minister from reining in hospital boards to provide compassionate, non-judgmental care to Ontarians…”
  • “Healthcare institutions that receive public funds cannot be permitted to refuse to provide assisted dying or allow for it to occur within their premises…”

Body of your Letter:  

In clear, concise language, focus on one or more aspects of the issue. In your own words, you may wish to highlight the following concerns: 

  1. Hospitals, hospices and long-term care homes receiving public funding should not be allowed to ban assisted dying on their premises

  2. Allowing public healthcare providers to opt-out of providing medical aid in dying on their premises to eligible patients, not only violates the rights of those persons — it will also necessarily impose unreasonable delays and force many Ontarians to undergo painful transfers, particularly those in communities served only by hospitals operated by organizations that oppose the Charter right to a medically assisted death.
  3. Allowing boards of public hospitals to decide not to permit medical assisted deaths to occur on their premises, gives these unelected — and mostly unaccountable — bodies final say over who can and who cannot access the Charter-protected right to a dignified death.

  4. Publicly funded institutions that refuse to allow assisted deaths on their premises violate their duty as public healthcare providers and their mandate to provide compassionate, non-judgmental care to Ontarians at the end of their lives.

Use personal experience: 

If you have a personal story that illustrates why more must be done to ensure that public healthcare facilities don’t obstruct Ontarians’ right to assisted dying, please include it in your letter.  

You may also wish to mention the testimonial story of Jan Lackie, who spoke with the National Post about the horrible transfer her father had to endure after he requested assisted dying in a facility that refused to grant his wish.

Your conclusion: 

Briefly summarize the main points of your letter. In a sentence or short paragraph, reiterate the main points you made in the executive summary.

Finish your letter by thanking the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly for their consideration, then sign off with your name.

 

*Photo by Benson Kua.


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