Catholic Vancouver Feb. 22, 2018

Euthanasia in hospices ‘a serious error’: Archbishop

By Agnieszka Ruck

Archbishop Miller greets people after Mass on the World Day of the Sick Feb. 13. In a statement Feb. 22, he said government and society are failing to serve the ill and dying when they force assisted suicide into hospice and palliative care homes. (Photo by Sammy Tong / Special to The B.C. Catholic)

The Archbishop of Vancouver is demanding the B.C. government put an immediate stop to attempts to force hospices and care homes to provide euthanasia.

Health authorities in B.C. are “making a serious error” in trying to coerce caregivers “committed to making the final stages of life for the elderly, sick, and suffering meaningful and dignified,” into supporting assisted suicide, wrote Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in a Feb. 22 statement.

“Assisted suicide stands in stark contrast” to the care that hospices offer, and none should be compelled to provide it, he said.

More than 2,000 Canadians have died of assisted suicide since the practice was made legal in June 2016. Archbishop Miller said that points to a dire need for better end-of-life care, not increased access to a lethal injection.

“If the elderly, sick, and suffering in our population feel that euthanasia is their best option, it means we as a society and as individuals are letting them down,” he wrote.

“In nearly every case we can provide adequate pain management to comfort patients. But what about the lonely, the abandoned, and those who see themselves as a burden to others or society? How do we address their needs and assure them life has meaning?”

By providing “true compassion,” he wrote. “We are called to suffer with the sufferer, not to end his or her life.”

Archbishop Miller is the latest voice to join many health care workers, volunteers, community leaders, and concerned citizens calling foul over a recent announcement from the Fraser Health Authority that hospices in its jurisdiction would be required to provide assisted suicide on site if a patient was qualified. Currently, hospices can opt to transfer patients who want to die to a different location for the lethal procedure.

On Wednesday, Langley Hospice society’s board of directors released a formal statement opposing the Fraser Health directive and listing concerns including what lack of consultation between hospice and the FHA.

Archbishop Miller's homily for World Day of the Sick: Compassion is sharing, not killing
Schratz column: Euthanasia cutting reconciliation short