Providence Health Care memo reveals opposition to doctor-assisted suicide in its Vancouver hospitals

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      The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that under certain circumstances, Canadians should have the right to physician-assisted suicide.

      But a memo leaked to CBC News indicates that this health service is "not permitted" by Providence Health Care. It's a large, publicly funded organization that operates Vancouver hospitals and residential-care facilties.

      "PHC provides health care in conformity with the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) Health Ethics Guide," says the memo, obtained by CBC News. "Accordingly, and at the most fundamental level, PAD contradicts the basic tenets of Catholic health care—wherein life is held to be sacred from conception to natural death—and not permitted in Catholic health care institutions such as Providence."

      On its website, Providence Health Care describes its mission this way: "Inspired by the healing ministry of Jesus Christ, Providence Health Care is a Catholic health care community dedicated to meeting the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of those served through compassionate care, teaching and research."

      Providence Health Care operates St. Paul's Hospital, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, and St. John Hospice.

      It also runs the following residential-care facilities: Youville Residence, St. Vincent's: Langara, and St. Vincent's: Brock Fahrni, as well as the St. Vincent's: Honoria Conway assisted-living residence for seniors.

      According to its annual budget for the year ending March 31, 2015, Providence Health Care received $501.2 million from Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, $124 million from the provincial Pharmacare program, $84 million from other health authories and B.C. government reporting entities, and $63.1 million from the provincial Medical Services Plan.

      After the Supreme Court issued its ruling allowing doctor-assisted suicide, the Georgia Straight posted an online poll asking readers if they agreed with the decision. Eight-nine percent responded "yes", with just six percent saying "no" and the rest falling into the "not sure" camp.

      The B.C. Civil Liberties Association won the assisted-dying case, Carter v. Canada.

      Commitee issues report on doctor-assisted suicide

      Meanwhile, a special joint committee of MPs and senators on physician-assisted dying recommended today that people should be allowed to provide advanced consent. And any physicians, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses working under the direction of a medical doctor should be exempted from sections 14 and 241(b) of the Criminal Code for delivering this service.

      The special joint committee also called for two doctors to sign off and two witnesses to be present when a patient makes this request.

      That particular recommendation troubled the BCCLA.

      “We are concerned that the requirements for a second doctor, and for two witnesses, will be onerous for patients, particularly those in rural and northern communities, and could pose an unnecessary barrier to care,” BCCLA litigation director Grace Pastine said in a news release issued today.