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B.C. hospice loses funding after refusing to provide assistance in dying

VICTORIA — A hospice society in British Columbia is having its funding stopped because it will not comply with the province’s policy on medical assistance in dying.

The Health Ministry says Fraser Health stopped funding the Delta Hospice Society on Tuesday after giving the organization a required 365 days’ notice to end its service agreement without cause.

The ministry says the contract gave the hospice about $1.5 million annually, which covered 94 per cent of the cost to operate 10 beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice.

The facility is on land owned by Fraser Health, and the ministry says the health authority will ensure people continue to have access to its 10 beds.

B.C. developed its policy after the federal government made it legal in 2016 for patients to get medical assistance in dying under certain circumstances.

The provincial policy requires a hospice to allow patients to access medical assistance in dying if its beds are more than 50 per cent publicly funded.

In a statement, Health Minister Adrian Dix says the board of the society in Delta wouldn’t comply with the policy.

“We are taking this action reluctantly, and when the role of the Delta Hospice Society concludes, patients in publicly funded hospice care will again be able to fully access their medical rights,” he said. 

Dix said a long-term solution is being explored for the hospice, which could include placing the Irene Thomas Hospice under public management.

“Given the significant financial contributions Delta community members made to build the facility, this would be the most desirable option,” he said. “Alternatively, we could pursue another Delta site. In either scenario, the 10 hospice beds represented by the existing facility will stay in Delta.”

Dix said patients make decisions about their medical care in consultation with their doctors and family, adding: “No organization can influence this decision or impose it.

“I respect anyone’s right to disagree, and no one has ever required hospice staff to deliver medical assistance in dying, but they must allow eligible residents who want the service to access it.”

The government says more than 3,000 people in B.C. have chosen medical assistance in dying in the past three years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25. 2020.

The Canadian Press