‘I thought it was ridiculous’: Religious facilities opposing assisted death leave patients in a bind

The Globe and Mail

Kelly Grant

The first time that Ian Pope was transferred out of a Vancouver Catholic hospital for an assisted-death eligibility assessment, the appointment started badly and ended worse.

On the taxi ride from St. Paul’s Hospital to a downtown clinic, a catheter bag affixed to the 64-year-old’s electric wheelchair ruptured. A vase had to be placed under it to catch the leaking urine.

As the appointment wore on, Mr. Pope, who had an advanced case of multiple sclerosis, could barely stay awake.

“He closed his eyes for a while,” said Ellen Wiebe, the doctor who assessed him. “I could get him to answer questions and he was being totally co-operative, but he was just so exhausted by the end.”

Dr. Wiebe, along with Mr. Pope’s daughter and a second doctor who also examined him, say the retired police officer suffered unnecessarily when he was twice transferred out of a publicly funded hospital to find out if he met the criteria for a legal assisted death.

Both doctors would have been happy to meet Mr. Pope in his hospital room, but St. Paul’s, which is part of a Catholic health network that opposes assisted death, would not allow it.

Mr. Pope was transferred out of the hospital a final time on Dec. 9 to receive an assisted death at the near-empty apartment he had not lived in for months.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” Mr. Pope’s daughter, Rachael, said, “because it’s a publicly funded hospital.”

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