Assisted suicide/euthanasia is completely contrary to the hospice vision espoused by the late great medical humanitarian Cecily Saunders, who created the modern hospice movement. She stood steadfastly against assisted-suicide legalization. Indeed, suicide prevention is one of hospice’s most fundamental services, I would say close in importance to pain control. As Saunders told me when I had the great honor of interviewing her in London, assisted suicide denies the intrinsic dignity of hospice patients.
Alas, in recent years some U.S. hospice organizations have been weak-kneed in defending the hospice philosophy against assisted-suicide predation. Too often, movement leaders — not wanting to be controversial — have gone “neutral” on legalization. That is an abdication of duty and an abandonment of hospice patients and their families. Some hospices even participate in assisting suicides where it is legal.
This is also happening in Canada where lethal-injection euthanasia was recently legalized. Religious hospices have pushed back and received some exemptions from having to participate. Now Langley Hospice — hooray! — a secular hospice in British Columbia is saying no to euthanasia based on the philosophical precepts of the hospice movement itself.
Langley had previously required a patient seeking euthanasia to transfer out before being killed. It is apparently part of Fraser Health, which buckled and changed the policy to permit euthanasia on premises. The board of directors of Langley have pushed back. From the Langley Hospice Board of Directors statement (my emphasis):
- The Langley Hospice Society will continue to uphold our constitution, bylaws and mandate to provide palliative care for dying people and their families in a supportive environment, which means that we plan to continue upholding our founding mission and philosophy of care that we value life and accept death as a normal process and that we “neither hasten nor postpone death.”
- The Langley Hospice Society recognizes the right for all Canadians to have access to information about end-of-life options, including MAiD. However, we do not recognize that this right is a superior right to the recognized philosophy of hospice and palliative care. We do not believe that MAiD should be implemented in hospices…
- We are concerned about the adverse consequences, emotional and otherwise that the Fraser Health December 2017 directive has had; first and foremost to the patients, clients and families we serve and also, to our Langley Community, Donors, Potential Donors, Hospice Volunteers and Staff…
- We believe that as a non-faith based hospice, Fraser Health should provide Langley Hospice with the same “exemption option” it has provided to faith-based hospices as the Fraser Health mandate is in direct opposition to our mission and philosophy to “neither hasten nor postpone death.” Not granting an exemption to do so is discriminatory.
Precisely. Hospice is not “hemlock.” Whether the hospice is religious or secular, no hospice should participate in the killings or suicides of its patients. And certainly, they should never be forced to so do.
Let’s hope their courage stiffens the spines of our own domestic quavering hospice administrators.