In Case You Missed It: January 2018

In Case You Missed It is a monthly round-up of news articles and commentaries featuring Dying With Dignity Canada speakers and stories. Did you miss these stories in January?

Barry Hyman qualified for an assisted death and asked to die at home. But his home at the time was a publicly funded Jewish nursing home in Vancouver whose board forbade assisted deaths on-site. That left his daughter, Lola, with a choice: She could transfer her father to an unfamiliar clinic to die, or she could invite one of the country's leading doctor-advocates of assisted dying, into her father's room to help him die in his own bed. Lola and her family graciously shared their father's story with The Globe and Mail’s Kelly Grant.

"The room was very quiet. We just held his hand and stared at him," Lola said. "My sister was sobbing, just sobbing. I was a stone. A complete stone. My heart was racing that someone would open the door." 

DWDC Physicians Advisory Council member, Dr. Ellen Wiebe, spoke to CBC’s As It Happens about providing medical assistance in dying (MAID) for Barry Hyman and what she will do moving forward.

“We had a debriefing meeting with the administrators from Louis Brier as well as from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. In that meeting, I was asked to promise that nothing like this would ever happen again, and I refused to promise that. I said that I would take each case individually. And if a patient said that they wanted to die at home, and I could offer it, I would do so.” 

This story was also covered by the Canadian Jewish News. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool told The CJN:

“By not allowing this, they are undermining the rights of the residents of Louis Brier who call it their home.”

The Jerusalem Post also picked up the story.

Dr. Stefanie Green, the president of the Canadian Association of MAID Assessors and Providers (CAMAP), wrote a Letter to the Jerusalem Post Editor in response to the above story.

This next story references a “very lovely compassionate person” who said ‘OK, I know a doctor who's just recently moved to Nova Scotia who can do this, let me make a call.’” That lovely person is our very own Kelsey Goforth.

Cape Breton man, Weldon Bona, faced numerous obstacles trying to access MAID in January. His friend, Kelley Edwards, spoke to CBC Nova Scotia about the experience and the role of DWDC:

"Basically, they go do in 12 hours what the ... [provincial medical assistance in dying] program wasn't willing to give us even in a week."

DWDC is grateful that Weldon was eventually able to access his right to a peaceful death, and that he did so “with a smile on his face.” The announcement of his death was shared by CBC Nova Scotia.

“Weldon Bona ended his life today with help from Medical Assistance in Dying and Dying with Dignity Canada," it read. "Peaceful, pain-free, and with a smile on his face, Weldon chose to die as he lived: fully, and on his terms.”

DWDC board member, Jim Cowan, also spoke to the CBC’s Information Morning about access in Nova Scotia.

Documents obtained by Dying With Dignity Canada through a freedom-of-information request revealed that a publicly funded Catholic health-care network in B.C. mismanaged the forced transfer of a frail man seeking an assisted death. CAMAP President Dr. Stefanie Green spoke to The Globe and Mail about the issue of forced transfers:

"Any publicly funded institution […] has the obligation to provide legal, sanctioned, covered medical services in Canada."

This story was also covered by CTV News and features quotes from DWDC’s CEO Shanaaz Gokool about the harms of this practice:

"It creates a system of forced transfers for some of the most vulnerable people in our country and people who are often very physically compromised."

More on forced transfers: 37 Albertans have been transferred out of institutions to access MAID. Both DWDC’s June Churchill of the Calgary chapter and DWDC board member Brad Peter spoke to Global News:

“It’s very hard on the patient. These are terminally ill people who have problems with pain management and they or their family are having to insist that a transfer be made.”

DWDC’s petition asking premiers to address the problem of forced transfers made headlines on Global News and the St. Albert Gazette. In the latter, DWDC board member and Edmonton chapter co-chair, Brad Peter, comments:

“In Alberta specifically, Covenant Health is probably the largest publicly-funded institution in the province and they have a policy that MAID cannot happen on its premises.”

Horst Saffarek was moved from St. Joseph’s General, a hospital in Comox, British Columbia that does not allow MAID, to a hospital in Nanaimo. However, his health declined after the transfer and he died before being able to access MAID, as told on CBC’s The Current.

"That move was really stressful on us as a family, it was stressful on him, and it possibly, you know, contributed to him going earlier. It took away from us being able to celebrate Dad, and just enjoy our last moments with him."

Dr. Jyothi Jayaraman, a palliative care physician and MAID provider, sent an excellent Letter to The Globe and Mail Editor about the damage caused by forced transfers:

Watching the patients under your care being forcibly moved in and out for medical assistance in dying (MAID) assessments, or listening to the family's anguish and bewilderment at the necessity for doing so causes great moral distress among care providers. Conscience is not limited to objection – it includes the decision to participate.

Dr. Jayaraman was also quoted in this Globe and Mail story on the plight of Mr. Ian Pope, a Vancouver man who endured three grueling forced transfers on his quest for a peaceful death.

“I was so disturbed that this poor man had to be moved that I wrote an e-mail to the group in St. Paul's which is responsible for co-ordinating this kind of transfer. I said that I was truly shocked … I felt that this was wrong, what we were doing to this man.”

DWDC board member Dr. Derryck Smith wrote a strongly-worded Letter to The Globe and Mail Editor on forced transfers and publicly funded faith-based institutions banning assisted dying on-site.

“We should respect the religious beliefs and autonomy of individuals but not those imposed by institutions.” 

A Catholic hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia is opting out of allowing MAID on-site. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke to The Chronicle Herald:

“There are hospices and long-term care residences as well as faith-based facilities that have decided to, because for some reason they’re allowed to, opt out of providing basic and essential health care.”

DWDC obtained 844 pages of correspondence through a Freedom of Information request that highlight the problems with forced transfers:

The emails from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and the Catholic care provider Providence Health Care give a behind-the-scenes look at logistical problems, potential risks to patients and inevitable future conflicts when publicly funded medical facilities refuse to allow assisted dying on-site. CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke to the CBC News British Columbia:

"The purpose of those facilities is the delivery of health care to the communities that they serve. They're not there to support the political ideology of the policy-makers of those facilities," she said. "That's why they receive taxpayer funds."

DWDC’s Communications Officer Cory Ruf spoke to the Rocky Mountain Outlook about a publicly funded, faith-based hospital in Banff banning assisted dying on-site.

“Healthcare facilities that receive public funds have a duty to provide basic and essential health services to the communities they serve ... Forced transfers are discriminatory and they undermine the principles of universal, equitable access to healthcare – principles that have been part of our national identity for more than 50 years.”

CBC’s The Early Edition ran an incredible six-part series on assisted dying called “A Good Good-bye.” You can view and listen to the series in its entirety here, or by clicking on the individual links below:

Law professor Jocelyn Downie — who was recently named to the Order of Canada — wrote an op-ed for The Chronicle Herald urging officials to fix the flaws in the medically assisted dying process.

Former DWDC volunteer Noreen Campbell accessed MAID on January 12, 2017. Cliff, her husband of 48 years, spoke to Dr. Brian Goldman of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art:

“I had very mixed feelings because I was happy for her, I could see how happy she was... I think we never want to see a loved one depart in that way. I knew that Noreen so strongly wanted this, I was determined to support her with that. But I didn't want it. I frequently told her I didn't want her to go, but I understood and I was willing to let her go if that's what she needed and that's what she wanted.” 

Dr. Brian Goldman also spoke with Tim Regan, a Toronto man who shared the story of his MAID journey, including the obstacles he faced, the day before accessing MAID:

"As soon as I heard of Medical Assistance in Dying, I wanted MAID. I've had a lifetime of having my will turned towards a non-distended death."

Almost three years after the Carter decision was released, journalist Sandra Martin wrote an excellent, comprehensive feature for The Globe and Mail on why the assisted dying debate in Canada is far from over.  

In this piece for Policy Options, law professor Jocelyn Downie speaks to some of the flaws of the current MAID legislation, including the narrow, four-part definition of “grievous and irremediable medical condition” and the 10-day waiting period.

Ontario’s South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is hiring a MAID coordinator. DWDC’s Cory Ruf spoke to CBC News London:

"There's absolutely a pressing need across Ontario for services that support individuals and families who are navigating requests for medical assistance in dying." 

Sunnybrook Hospital’s Paul Taylor shares in The Globe and Mail the story of a reader whose terminally ill father was turned down for MAID, and looks at what patients need to know about the assessment process.

Syd Valentine had an assisted death on January 28. Two of her friends spoke to the Vancouver Courier about what it was like on her final day:

“It’s not often we get to feel so alive and yet so conscious of our ultimate destiny.”

Priscilla Cole wanted Canadians to know about the challenges she faced in her efforts to have a peaceful death. While her wish for a medically assisted death was ultimately granted, her harrowing final weeks speak to the confusion that continues to shroud Canada’s assisted dying law. Priscilla and her two sons, Donald and Howard, shared her final lesson with DWDC’s Communications Officer Cory Ruf:

“I am in peace and you should be in peace about me. I am very content. I just want to die. Have no regrets about me. Be content with me.”

Dr. James Downar, a member of our Physicians Advisory Council, spoke to the CBC’s The Sunday Edition about the benefits and perils of organ donation after assisted death.

Jeanna Anne Bérubé accessed MAID in the fall of 2016. Her family shares their experience with The Timmins Press, including the comfort they’ve found in knowing that she was able to donate her kidneys and parts of her eyes.

“That’s a comfort for us, because we know that she lives on in other people. For me, it helps me with the grief. It helps with the acceptance.”

An access to information request has revealed that the Timmins and District Hospital's assisted dying policy encourages the procedure to be done outside the hospital, as reported by The Timmins Press.

The judgment in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario case was released on January 31. The judges ruled unanimously in favour of the CPSO’s policy on effective referrals. DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool spoke to the Canadian Press:

"We believe the effective referral policy strikes a fair, sensible balance between a physician's right to conscience or moral objection and a patient's right to care. We are grateful that the judges' decision puts patients first."

You can read more on DWDC’s blog.

DWDC CEO Shanaaz Gokool also spoke to The Globe and Mail about this victory for patients’ rights:

“It’s a stunning decision that really puts the rights of the most vulnerable residents of this province ahead of the rights of clinicians” who object on religious grounds. “It’s a fair balance of rights.”

More coverage of the court ruling can be found in this Canadian Press piece and this Ottawa Citizen piece.

The lawyers representing DWDC and its Quebec sister organization AQDMD were in court in January to request that we be allowed to present an expert report as part of our intervention in the Quebec constitutional challenge. Lawyer Jean-Pierre Menard, who spoke to CTV News Montreal, said he expects this to be a long legal battle.

More on the Quebec challenge can be found on our blog.

Update: The judge will not allow DWDC/AQDMD to present an expert report. You can read more about this update on our blog.


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