B.C. doctor cleared of wrongdoing for providing assisted death to woman who starved herself

Globe and Mail

Kelly Grant

British Columbia’s physician regulator has cleared a doctor of any wrongdoing for providing medical aid in dying to a woman who did not qualify for the procedure until she starved herself to the brink of death.

A committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) found that Ellen Wiebe did not break the regulator’s rules when she helped a 56-year-old patient known as Ms. S to die last year.

The case is the first to be made public in which a medical regulator has ruled on the contentious question of whether doctors should grant assisted deaths to patients who only satisfy all the criteria of the federal law after they stop eating and drinking.

“It was determined that Ms. S met the requisite criteria and was indeed eligible for medical assistance in dying, despite the fact that her refusal of medical treatment, food, and water, undoubtedly hastened her death and contributed to its ‘reasonable foreseeability,'” the college’s inquiry committee wrote in a Feb. 13 report. . . . [Full text]

 

Pregnant women in rural B.C. urged to leave town to deliver

40% of women in rural Canada have to drive at least 1 hour away for maternity services

CBC News

Briar Stewart

For pregnant women in Fort Nelson, B.C., part of the prenatal routine includes agreeing not to have their babies in the northern community.

“Due to staffing issues, we are unable to conduct safe obstetric care,” says the memo from the health centre.

An official with Northern Health, which oversees health centres in the region, says while physicians and staff are equipped to respond to  an “unplanned delivery,” women are advised to leave up to a month before their due date because “the safety of both the mother and the baby must come first.”

Fort Nelson, a community of 3,500, is one of dozens of rural communities in Canada where maternity services have been eliminated, in part because of the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain doctors in remote parts of the country.

The lack of intrapartum care means some women have to travel hundreds of kilometres and pay thousands of dollars to have their babies, even though health experts say long-distance delivery can come with greater health risks. . . [Full Text]

Politicians call on public to oppose Fraser Health making hospices offer euthanasia

Surrey Now Leader

Heather Colplitts

Fraser Health’s decision to have hospices offer medically assisted dying prompted a couple hundred people to gather Saturday to discuss how to fight back.

A Saturday evening meeting about the local health authority allowing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) included a discussion on whether there’s a possible legal case, and what people, hospice societies and volunteers can do if they disagree with the health authority.

All B.C. health authorities have said their various facilities would provide MAiD. Fraser Health funds the hospice residence near Langley Memorial Hospital where terminally ill people are able to receive care. The society has offices and space for its various bereavement programs at 20660 48th Ave. and has a contract with Fraser Health to provide volunteers for the residence. . . [Full Text]

Delta hospice rebels against Fraser Health’s mandate to provide medical assistance in dying

Vancouver Sun

Pamela Fayerman

The operators of the Delta Hospice Society say they’re victims of “bullying” tactics by Fraser Health and medical assistance in dying (MAiD) activists who want the service provided in all non-denominational, hospice palliative care programs.

“Hospice palliative care is not about hastening death and we object to the bullying currently taking place in B.C.,” said Janice Strukoff, an administrative leader for the charitable, non-profit society that has a contract with the health region to provide 10 palliative care beds for the region. It derives just under half its income from the health authority; the other half comes from private donations.

“Hospice palliative care settings are designed for symptom management, the provision of comfort, and care for a natural death which is neither hastened nor prolonged,” she said, adding that providing MAiD in such settings would stoke fear and anxiety on the part of already vulnerable patients who aren’t necessarily ready to die.” . . . [Full Text]

BC recorded 188 medically assisted deaths; 77 on Vancouver Island

Vancouver Sun

Amy Smart, Victoria Times-Colonist

Seventy-seven people on Vancouver Island died with medical assistance in 2016, more than any other region in B.C. — and most other provinces.

Some speculate the high number might be the result of demographics and a long history of advocacy for the right to assisted death.

For each assisted death performed, between five and 10 patients are deemed ineligible, Island Health said.

A Times Colonist survey of provincial coroners, health ministries and health authories found that British Columbia ranked among the highest of medical assistance in dying, with 188 assisted deaths recorded. That was one more than Ontario, where the chief coroner recorded 187 deaths. . . [Full Text]

Should doctors be paid a premium for assisting deaths?

Physicians can make more doing paperwork than performing this legal, but emotionally demanding, service. For many, it’s just not worth it.

MacLeans

Catherine McIntyre

Back in March, Dr. Tanja Daws took time off from her family practice to travel from B.C.’s Comox Valley to a remote community on Vancouver Island and provide an elderly patient who was dying and suffering with medical assistance in dying (MAID). After the five-and-a-half hour endeavour, which involved some of the most emotionally and technically difficult work Daws has ever done, the physician calculated that, after factoring in her staffing costs and other office expenses, she had lost about $28 for every hour she worked.

“It struck me that I can’t keep doing this,” says Daws. “I can work for nothing, but I can’t work for a loss.” . . . [Full text]

Low fees have B.C. doctors thinking twice about providing assisted dying

‘We’re being paid 50% of what we would doing routine office work. So it’s difficult to justify continuing’

CBC News

Karin Larsen

Medically assisted dying has been legal in Canada for over a year, but one B.C. doctor says he can no longer afford to offer the service, because the costs involved are much greater than the $200 payout from the provincial medical services plan.

In a letter, Dr. Jesse Pewarchuk calls the situation “economically untenable” while outlining a number of steps a physician must follow in the medical assistance in dying (MAID) procedure. . . [Full text]

 

Canadian doctors turn away from assisted dying over fees

Globe and Mail

In a recent letter to some of his colleagues, Vancouver Island doctor Jesse Pewarchuk explained why he won’t be helping any more gravely ill patients to end their lives, despite his fervent support for assisted death.

“It is my deep regret to inform you that I am no longer accepting referrals for Medical Assistance in Dying,” the letter began. “Recent changes to the [Medical Services Plan] physician fee schedule have made MAID economically untenable and I unfortunately can no longer justify including it in my practice.” . . . [Full text]

 

One year after Canada’s medically assisted dying law, patients face uneven access

‘This dying, elderly man was stuck in the back of an ambulance so he could access his dying wishes’

CBC News

Nicole Ireland

“Martha” was stunned when her 78-year-old father told her he wanted a medically assisted death, after battling lung cancer for almost two years.

“It’s something you’ve never contemplated before in your family,” she said. “How do you prepare for this? This date that somebody’s going to pass away. It’s really hard.”

Martha has asked CBC News to use only her middle name, because children in her family don’t know that their grandfather’s death was medically assisted.  A year after Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying law passed on June 17, 2016, the issue remains highly controversial. . .  [Full text]

 

B.C. quietly creates system to help patients access medically assisted dying

Vancouver Sun

Bethany Lindsay

While other provinces try to piece together programs coordinating care for patients who want medical help ending their lives, B.C.’s health authorities have quietly created a system that’s winning praise from advocates.

This weekend, Ontario’s health minister said he hopes to develop a system that would allow patients to bypass doctors who object to assisted death, and connect them with health-care providers who can help. A similar system has been in place across B.C. for months already, according to Sue Hughson of Dying with Dignity Canada’s Vancouver chapter.

“We’re ahead, I’m happy to say. I was reading this (news story) and I was gloating a little bit, although I don’t like to gloat,” she said. . . [Full text]