A Ladner hospice is willing to forego hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funding rather than bow to pressure from Fraser Health Authority and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to provide assisted suicide on site.

The Delta Hospice Society has been given until February  to comply with orders from Fraser Health to offer Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) at the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice in Ladner. But in an interview with The B.C. Catholic, the hospice president says the organization would rather lose $750,000 in government funding than offer lethal injections.

“MAID is completely incompatible with palliative hospice care. It’s diametrically opposed,” Angelina Ireland said Jan. 17.

In refusing to provide assisted suicide, the hospice is only complying with its constitution, Ireland said. “We believe that we haven’t done anything wrong … We believe we are following on what palliative hospice care truly is.”

Ireland said the hospice is so determined, it is offering to give up $750,000 of government funding, which would ensure the hospice is under the 50 per cent funding threshold set by the government, therefore exempting it from providing assisted suicide. Currently, the hospice receives $1.4 million a year from the government.

Although Fraser Health previously rejected the proposal, a hospice lawyer sent the health authority a letter two days ago repeating the offer. In a Jan. 17 press release, Ireland asked the government to reconsider the offer.

“We’re offering to give up $750,000. That’s how much it means to us to be a true hospice and palliative care facility,” Ireland told The B.C. Catholic.

Delta Hospice President Angelina Ireland. (pressfortruth.ca)

The lost government money would force the hospice to seek new funding, she admitted, and many of the hospice’s outreach programs would have to take a back seat in the interim. “But we’re very happy to propose that to Fraser Health and to the ministry. We hope that they would continue to be a partner with us.”

She said access to MAID is not an issue in the area; Delta Hospital, where assisted suicide is available, is located just around the corner from the hospice.

“We’re not keeping people from accessing euthanasia. You could have it at a hospital, you could have it at home,” said Ireland. “There is a finite number of palliative hospice beds in this province and we are trying to protect those.”

Cloverdale-Langley City MP Tamara Jansen defended Delta Hospice, saying in a statement Jan. 15 she is “very disappointed” with the government’s threats to shut down the hospice over a debate about assisted suicide.

“The World Health Organization, as well as several major Canadian palliative care organizations, agree that MAID and palliative care are separate practices … I’m joining with fellow MPs to call upon Health Minister Adrian Dix and Fraser Health to respect the right of medical professionals to exercise their freedom of conscience.”