Physician-assisted suicide ruling disappoints Catholic hospital in Comox

St. Joseph's General Hospital is disappointed in the B.C. Supreme Court ruling on physician-assisted death in Canada.

St. Joseph’s General Hospital is disappointed in the B.C. Supreme Court ruling on physician-assisted death in Canada.

Last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lynn Smith ruled the law prohibiting physician-assisted dying is unconstitutional, but allowed one year for Parliament to draft new legislation.

St. Joseph’s, which is owned by the Diocese of Victoria, does not support the ruling, according to hospital president and CEO Jane Murphy.

“As a Catholic health care organization St. Joseph’s General Hospital is disappointed in the recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling,” said Murphy. “The sanctity of human life at all stages is an essential value of care. We advocate for and support the provision of effective palliative care to those who are dying and who live with pain.

“We have great compassion for individuals with serious and progressive diseases such as ALS, however we believe that these rare but challenging cases should not result in changing our laws to allow for assistance in the ending of lives of individuals.”

But local Dying with Dignity member Chris (Dandelion) Morrison — who has known people that wanted to end their lives and have taken steps to do so — feels differently opinion on the issue.

“We keep on keeping people alive, even when they don’t want to be alive, and the costs to the healthcare system are astronomical,” said Morrison. “It just seems really backward to what is needed in our society now. There’s so many people now that are suffering that want to, want to go, and I say let them go. And, I mean, who are we to say, ‘No you can’t go?’ It’s their body, it’s their soul.”

However, Morrison questions how long the decision will stand as is.

“It might be overturned and I think there’ll be a lot more hullabaloo, and meanwhile people continue to suffer,” she added, “and it’s just, I don’t know, if there was any way I could help somebody to go I would certainly do that.”

Comox Valley Hospice Society executive director Terri Odeneal said hospice focuses on the importance of palliative care at the end of a person’s life.

“CVHS believes that equitable access to modern, appropriate hospice palliative care for every Canadian, regardless of where they live, would drastically reduce people’s concerns and fears around this issue,” said Odeneal. “The way each of us wishes to spend the last days of our lives is an extremely personal decision based on our deeply held values and beliefs.

“We support the right of every Canadian to make these very personal decisions within the context of the law.”

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller issued a statement calling on government to appeal the ruling.

“We have been down this road many times around the world, and all the safeguards initially put in place wind up either disregarded or eventually dispensed with. The result is euthanasia harms not only those whose lives are taken, but those responsible for taking them,” he said in the statement. “I strongly urge the government to appeal this extremely flawed and dangerous ruling.”

Editorial, page A28.