A Courtenay doctor resigned Tuesday from the ethics committee at St. Joseph’s General Hospital due to what he calls a “disgraceful” policy regarding Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).
“Having now provided a number of medically assisted deaths I can testify to the relief that the exercising of this right brings to suffering patients and their distraught families,” Dr. Jonathan Reggler states in a letter to hospital president/CEO Jane Murphy. (See resignation letter, in its entirety, below.)
Reggler said physicians have been prohibited from providing medically-assisted deaths in the hospital ever since the law changed. Bill C-14 received royal assent in June, since which MAiD has been available to Canadians suffering intolerably, and who wish to have a dignified and peaceful death.
In keeping with other Catholic institutions, Reggler said St. Jo’s has imposed a “blanket prohibition on the provision of MAiD,” which will force transfers to other hospitals, which in turn will cause additional pain and suffering to patients who are too sick to return home.
“This is the cruellest hospital policy that I have ever encountered in over 30 years of medical practice,” he states. “St. Joseph’s motto, ‘Care with Compassion,’ rings hollow now.”
As a Catholic health care provider, Murphy said St. Jo’s does not provide MAiD.
“St. Joseph’s has a history of moral tradition of compassionate care that neither prolongs dying nor hastens death,” Murphy said in a statement (see below for full statement). “Requests for MAiD are taken extremely seriously, and we work closely with the patient and health care team to discuss and plan his or her care needs.”
Under Bill C-14, Reggler had hoped mature minors would be eligible for an assisted death.
“There’s no reason to understand why a 16- or 17-year-old dying of an incurable disease shouldn’t be able to have something that an 18- or 19-year-old may,” he said in an interview. “I think the other big area is that of advanced directives. A lot of older people were hoping that advanced directives would be permitted to allow people to say, ‘If I’m very demented, and my quality of life is very poor, I would like my decision-makers to be allowed to have me given a medically-assisted death.’ And that’s not allowed.”
Government has said it would, in the future, consider these issues.
“I do understand the government’s anxieties,” Reggler said. “But my main concern — and I think it’s much more important than any of those — is the issue of hospitals and hospices across Canada denying medically-assisted death to people in those facilities. And it’s usually about a faith-based institution like St. Jo’s simply saying, ‘We will not do this’.
“It requires a provincial law stating that faith-based institutions are not allowed to prohibit individual physicians from carrying out medically-assisted deaths to patients who are eligible and who wish it.”
Even if the ethics committee at St. Jo’s had approved medically-assisted death, he said their wish would be ignored by the board and the bishop.
The B.C. health sector’s response to MAiD allows for individuals and faith‐based hospitals to conscientiously object to its provision, while providing safe and timely transfers for patients for further assessment and discussion of care options, if required.
“We appreciate that this is a sensitive topic, and we are committed to responding in a compassionate manner and providing the best possible care to our patients to relieve their suffering at the end of life,” Murphy said.