Medical Assistance in Dying

Death is a medical choice, but not for everyone

Doctors and some patients in B.C. are learning legalization isn’t perfect

A total of 188 people in B.C. have had a doctor assess their medical condition, help plan when and where, and put them to sleep and give them the drugs that will cause them to die – all since medically assisted death was legalized in Canada.

As one man in the Cowichan Valley put it before his wife died earlier this month, it allows for sick people to die with dignity, in the comfort of their home, care home, hospital or hospice.

RELATED: Crofton couple chooses doctor-assisted death

But many people are still being told they can’t be approved for the procedure because of federal restrictions.

To qualify for medically assisted death, a person must be suffering from grievous or incurable illness, able to consent, registered for MSP, and over the age of 18.

But sticking points remain for Bill C14, such as the reasonably foreseeable future clause, which requires doctors to ensure, without a doubt, that the death of a patient is probable.

Generally, physicians have interpreted that to mean that the patient will die in six months.

“We need an improvement,” said Vancouver-based Dr. Ellen Wiebe. “It means (some people) can expect to suffer for years.”

Wiebe has helped 46 people die and is currently assessing 120 more people living in the Lower Mainland.

She said it’s terrible when she has to turn someone away.

A young patient, for example, diagnosed with a painful and inoperable illness, may not be as probable to die in the next six months.

“Every single one of these people are suffering terribly,” Wiebe said. “In each case that I’ve seen, there’s really no hope in recovery of their terrible condition, and that’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve had to do, is say no.”

All she can do is to help them know where they stand and what about their health needs to change for them to become eligible.

BCCLA awaits trial

When it struck down the prohibition on assisted death two years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada recommended that the procedure should be allowed in cases where “the suffering is intolerable from the perspective of the person who is suffering.”

But with Bill C14’s restrictions, the BC Civil Liberties Association launched a legal action, arguing the reasonably foreseeable death clause violates the rights of those who suffer.

“It has to be a question that that person can answer themselves,” BCCLA lawyer Caily DiPuma said.

The lead plaintiff is Chilliwack resident Julia Lamb, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, type 2.

Law is too broad, but also too exclusive: advocate

Dr. Jonathon Reggler, based in the Comox Valley and co-chair of the physician advisory committee with the group Dying with Dignity, said the bill leaves too much open to interpretation.

“The law uses language that isn’t particularly medical,” Reggler said. “You won’t hear terms like ‘grievous’ or ‘irremediable’ in a medical textbook.”

One physician might approve assisted death for one patient, while another might not allow it, he said, and that could mean a lack of standardized care.

Reggler’s committee is advocating for the law to include patients whose death might not occur within the foreseeable future, but who are still intensely suffering.

In the meantime, physicians have been relying on each other to mull cases over.

“The way it’s happening is those who early on decided to be providers are talking to each other,” he said. “We do turn to the lawyers to some extent, but the lawyers have a very legalistic approach to this, whereas we believe very strongly we should make this very much apart of our ordinary clinical practice, and bring the same thoughts, and skills and experience to it that we do to any part of medical care.”

And time is ticking for those who aren’t eligible, Reggler said, especially when a patient needs to be well enough to provide consent.

To seek more information about medically assistance in dying, visit here.

Just Posted

The end of an Echo

Invermere Valley Echo shuts down operations in Columbia Valley

Creating a new narrative for Canal Flats

Economic development consultant hired, lists vision for next 90 days

UPDATE: Crews battle as wildfires rage in B.C. Interior

Crews brace for another day on B.C. firelines as no let up is likely

VIDEO: B.C. wildfires by the numbers

Wildfires continue to engulf regions of B.C.’s forests and communities.

VIDEO: More than 180 wildfires burning across B.C.

Firefighters from other provinces called in to assist

DTSS Grad March 2017

DTSS Grad March 2017

59 cats seized in Chase

59 neglected and injured cats were seized from a property in Chase

Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell dead at age 52

The singer/songwriter passed away early Thursday morning in Detroit

Paying tribute to a primeval passage

Uninterrupted celebrates the Adams River sockeye run in an extraordinary way.

UPDATE: Pemberton Music Festival cancelled, no automatic refunds

In the past, the music festival located in Pemberton drew large crowds last year of 180,000 fans

Medical wait times cost B.C. patients $2,300 each

New Fraser Institute report places B.C. at second worst in costs associated with long wait times

UPDATE: 22 killed at Ariana Grande concert

Witnesses reported hearing two loud bangs coming from near the arena’s bars at about 10:35 p.m.

One in three Canadian high school students have rode with drinking drivers, study reveals

Nearly one in five rode with a driver who’d been smoking pot

Top court to hear federal government’s appeal on residential school records

A lower court judge ruled to destroy the stories after 15 years unless consent is given to preserve

Most Read