The Globe and Mail
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.”
Douglas Farrow, Will Johnston
In 1639 three nuns got off the boat from France and began to build Hotel Dieu in Montreal, the first hospital in Canada. Over time, some 275 hospitals were built across our country by self-sacrificing Catholics who faithfully served the sick and dying out of love and compassion, without regard to their patients’ faith or lack of faith. Succeeding generations of Canadians have been grateful for the spiritual and physical care they have received at such places.
St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is one of those Catholic hospitals. In keeping with its faith-based principles, it respects the Catholic sense of human dignity — meaning, among other things, that it does not perform abortions or participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia.
Ellen Wiebe, a physician who is also an abortion and euthanasia activist, together with a lawyer, Richard Owens, recently criticized St. Paul’s because it would not euthanize one of its dying patients, Ian Shearer. . . [Full text]
The Canadian euthanasia issue marks a time of upheaval in medical ethics and the healthcare system which could be compared to events a century ago in Russia.
The Bolsheviks were not preordained to take over from the previous government, but their ruthlessness and aggression were unmatched. They demonized competing ideas and purged the social structures. They made their own laws. Nothing was allowed to stand. All was justified for public good, the good of the Proletariat.
The polite Canadian version seems to be that all control is justified by public funding. If a hospital accepts public money, a uniformity of euthanasia access is expected, a literally deadening uniformity.
People who would be ignored if they insisted that all welfare recipients be required to think alike, or that all Canada Council grants be used to create the same work of art, grab attention by bullying Catholic caregivers and hospitals which, like all hospitals, could not survive without tax dollars. . . [Full text]
Ian Shearer had had enough of the pain and wanted a quick, peaceful end, his life marred by multiple afflictions.
But the Vancouver man’s family says his last day alive became an excruciating ordeal after the Catholic-run hospital caring for him rebuffed his request for a doctor-assisted death, forcing him to transfer to another hospital.
The combination of the cross-town trip and inadequate pain control left Shearer, 84, in agony through most of his final hours, says daughter Jan Lackie.
“To hear him crying out, screaming … was just horrible,” said Lackie, breaking into tears as she recalled the day in late August. “That’s what keeps me from sleeping at night … I don’t want any other person to go through what he did.”
Shearer’s experience at St. Paul’s Hospital highlights one of the thorniest issues concerning assisted death: the decision of most faith-based — but taxpayer-funded — health-care facilities to play no part in a practice made legal by the Supreme Court of Canada and federal legislation. . . [Full text]