Forced transfers: Cruel and unjustified

Personal Stories | June 14, 2024 | Gaye and Jim O'Neill

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Two photos of Sam O'Neill. One of her finishing a marathon and another of her dressed up the summer before her diagnosis.

Medical assistance in dying (MAID) is a legal end-of-life option for those found eligible who are suffering from a grievous and irremediable medical condition in Canada, and has been so since 2016.* Unjustifiably, our 34-year-old daughter, Sam O’Neill, was forced to jump through hoops to be allowed to exercise this option. Sam was forced, at the most painful and vulnerable time of her young life, to accept hypocritical terms and be made an example of as a heathen in the eyes of the Catholic Church and Providence Health Care, which was condoned and funded by the Province of B.C.  

Sam suffered through a painful, undignified forced transfer from St. Paul’s Hospital under a ‘religious umbrella’ to St. John Hospice operated under the same religious umbrella by Providence Health Care. Sam suffered because her beliefs did not align with that of a religious group who did not share her vision.    

There isn’t therapy enough to take the horror of what we witnessed as they stripped our daughter of her dignity by rushing her final care to make the ‘appointment to die’ at a different religious facility that housed a room in a hall deemed less holy, away from the religious body of the building.  

There isn’t therapy enough to erase the image of being asked into Sam’s room at St. Paul’s hospital to say goodbye to our lightly sedated daughter as she sat on a commode in a blanket, in her hospital room as they readied her for the transfer.  

There isn’t therapy enough to erase the moans and cries her father heard from Sam as she was bounced across the city to St. John’s hospice.  

There isn’t therapy enough to erase the image of Sam’s mom clearing equipment that had been housed in Sam’s final resting room because the space was used as storage room immediately prior to our arrival.   

There was no peace in Sam’s passing. It was violent and cruel.  

This hypocritical, degrading and cruel practice of forced transfers, in the name of one group’s beliefs, must be stopped. We don’t know if we will ever heal from this experience, but we know we won’t until the practice of forced transfers, on others, has been stopped.   

If you or a loved one have experienced an Institutional Religious Obstruction to health care such as a forced transfer to receive MAID, you can write a letter and tell your local representative that all health care facilities that receive taxpayer funding must permit MAID onsite, and you can share your story with us at DWDC. 


* As of March 17, 2021, when Bill C-7 received Royal Assent, the law no longer requires a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable to access medical assistance in dying (MAID).

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