MAiD lawsuit poses a serious challenge for St. Paul’s and all Catholic hospitals

The new St. Paul’s Hospital in the Downtown Eastside will be completed in 2027. Right beside it will be a ‘clinical space’ for MAiD.

Providence Health Care has accepted that a government-run ‘clinical space’ will provide euthanasia right next to their new St. Paul’s Hospital complex – but that is not good enough for critics who insist that patients who choose MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) should have the right die where they have received care.

A couple whose daughter died shortly after being transferred from St. Paul’s to another facility is suing the province and Providence Health Care, saying its policy to ban MAiD violates patients’ Charter rights.

A front page story on virtually all local media this week was covered by CBC News June 17:

Gaye O’Neill, the mother of 34-year-old Samantha O’Neill, is the lead plaintiff in the case, along with Dr. Jyothi Jayaraman, a palliative care doctor who quit over Providence’s policy that bars patients from accessing MAID in its facilities.

Samantha O’Neill opted for end-of-life care in April 2023 after being diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer.

She was being treated at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, but could not have the procedure to end her life there because the hospital is operated by Providence – a Catholic health organization that opposes the practice.

A statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday morning states that O’Neill died hours after being heavily sedated to prepare her for the transfer to another facility.

The B.C. Catholic posted an article June 19. They said:

Providence spokesperson Shaf Hussain said in a statement that the court filing is being reviewed.

“Providence is committed to providing compassionate care to all patients and residents.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a statement saying he respects all parties’ perspectives but can’t comment on the matter while it is before the courts.

Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed the situation at the time, saying hospital transfers for MAiD are rare, occurring in about 0.2 per cent of cases. He said St. Paul’s Hospital acted according to protocol and praised its contributions to the provincial health system, saying the overall relationship with faith-based healthcare providers is beneficial.

Media extensively covered the issue, with stories quoting critics calling for the B.C. government to reconsider the Master Agreement with the Denominational Health Association, which allows religious health providers to follow their ethical guidelines.

Go here for the full article.

In a follow-up to their initial article, CBC News reported June 18 that Providence Health Care has provided more information on the issue:

Nineteen people this year have been forced to transfer out of Providence Health Care facilities to access medical assistance in dying (MAID). . . Nine of those patients were transferred out of Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital, four from Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, four from May’s Place Hospice and two from St. John Hospice.

CBC Radio’s BC Today devoted half an hour to the issue ‘Should hospitals be allowed to refuse MAiD,’ June 18.

Typically, the show only presented the MAiD-proponent side of the discussion. It began with clips from Health Minister Adrian Dix and Daphne Gilbert, a University of Ottawa law professor and Vice Chair of Dying With Dignity, which strongly promotes MAiD. She is also part of the O’Neills’ legal team.

Host Michelle Eliot spoke with her guest Sally Thorne, Professor Emeritus at UBC School of Nursing and specialist in health care ethics. Thorne concluded by saying:

I think the hope of those who are launching the court case, really, is to move that conversation forward, so that society can really wrestle with that idea of whether an organization ought to be able to have a conscience, particularly when it’s receiving public funding – and whether Canadians ought to be deprived of something that legislatively they now have the right to consider.

Eliot said BC Today had contacted the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, but had not received a response. She did not say why they were not speaking with other Catholic representatives or with people who have critiqued the rapid introduction of MAiD into our healthcare system. She did read a very brief November, 2023 statement from the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops which opposed the performance of euthanasia (or assisted suicide or MAiD) in Catholic organizations.

Challenging issue

It is true that Catholic and socially conservative voices have been muted on the MAiD issue. Two articles by veteran journalist Terry O’Neill from The B.C. Catholic’s ‘MAiD in Canada crisis’ series of articles (which I re-posted here) address the challenging situation facing St. Paul’s and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver:

  • “MAiD and the Catholic hospital: ‘We are faced with a conundrum,’ pro-life chaplain says”

O’Neill wrote:

More than half a year has now passed since the provincial government ordered Vancouver Coastal Health to build a euthanasia facility next to St. Paul’s Hospital, thereby doing an end run around the Catholic hospital’s principled opposition to assisted suicide.

But despite this passage of time, a host of important questions remain unanswered about Vancouver Coastal Health’s construction and operation of the MAiD facility and its physical connection to St. Paul’s.

As well, nagging questions remain about the moral implications, on the St. Paul’s situation, of Church teaching that prohibits “collaboration” between Catholic and other institutions “when it involves referrals for persons who request euthanasia.” It’s a vexing issue that even the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s pro-life chaplain says “is a conundrum.”

He points out that some local Catholics, such as activist pro-lifer Mary Wagner, believe Providence’s ‘Medical Assistance in Dying: Responding to Requests’ policy compromises Catholic principles; she “urged Catholics not to tolerate the status quo and to resist the expansion of MAiD.”

The policy states, in part:

 PHC has an institutional obligation as a Catholic health care provider to uphold the principles of Catholic moral teaching . . . Given the incompatibility of Catholic teaching with actions intended to terminate human life, PHC Personnel will not provide MAiD and MAiD will not occur where PHC provides medical services.

But it also allows for cooperation with government policy:

When a patient pursues a MAiD request, the MRP, unit social worker or designate will liaise with the MAiD Response Lead . . . A safe transfer of care to a MAiD provider to a location identified by the MAiD provider will be ensured. . . .

O’Neill wrote:

Father [Larry Lynn, the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s pro-life chaplain] described as “legitimate and valid” the moral arguments against any sort of cooperation between St. Paul’s and Vancouver Coastal Health and stressed that Providence had opposed and was continuing to fight back against euthanasia.

At the same time, he also said Providence is acting “in charity and justice” and cannot keep people seeking MAiD in the hospital against their will.

He agreed Providence is attempting to make the best of a bad situation. “That’s where it’s at. . . . It’s just an awful place to be.”

Go here for the full article.

  • “Reigning in MAiD: Political parties shy away from commenting on B.C. euthanasia policy”

O’Neill also wrote that political support is hard to come by on this sensitive issue:

With the October 19 provincial election just four months away, the leaders of two of B.C.’s smallest political parties [the Christian Heritage Party of BC and the BC Libertarian Party] are saying the province should flex its jurisdictional muscles to rein in the rapid rise of euthanasia in B.C. . . .

Current polling suggests that neither party is likely to elect a single Member of the Legislative Assembly, let alone form government. But The B.C. Catholic turned to them after neither BC United nor the Conservative Party of BC responded to repeated requests to say what measures they would take regarding euthanasia access or funding.

Go here for the full article.

Polling indicates that the Canadian public is strongly supportive of MAiD in general, though much less so when applied to people suffering from mental illness.

Euthanasia lobby

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Society, wrote June 18:

One of the main goals for the euthanasia lobby is to force all Canadian medical institutions to provide (MAiD) euthanasia. . . .

Let’s be clear. This court case will force every religiously affiliated healthcare institution in Canada to provide euthanasia and Sam O’Neill’s death is the test case. . . .

Go here for the full comment.

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1 comment for “MAiD lawsuit poses a serious challenge for St. Paul’s and all Catholic hospitals

  1. This MAiD controversy is just another example of the secular community’s intolerance and blindness of other worldviews and beliefs. They do not want Providence to act according to their own beliefs and insist Providence act according to secular beliefs! Secularism is the most intolerant of all religious views in Canada – also the most ignorant of its own religion! Unfortunately, it is also the majority worldview.

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