Dr. Jonathan Reggler wants assisted dying laws to apply across the board in B.C. hospitals

Dr. Jonathan Reggler wants assisted dying laws to apply across the board in B.C. hospitals

Assisted dying causing ethical quandary for some

Matters of church and state appear poised to collide in the corridors of a Vancouver Island hospital.

Matters of church and state appear poised to collide in the corridors of a Vancouver Island hospital.

And it really is a question of life and death.

On one side you have the Catholic church, owners of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, which says the facility’s rejection of doctor-assisted death on its premises is a matter of faith and should be allowed to stand on those grounds.

On the other side you have a Comox doctor and his supporters who say assisted dying is now a court-mandated right, one that Canadians should be able to access in all publicly funded hospitals.

And sitting ringside is Island Health, which is prepared to support St. Joseph’s in its position, at least until politically ordered to do otherwise.

“If an Island Health facility such as a religiously-affiliated hospital does not want to perform the service, we will work with the facility, patient, family, care providers and others in finding alternative locations and providers,” the health authority said in a statement released Friday to Black Press.

The Supreme Court legalized doctor-assisted dying in a landmark February 2015 ruling that will go into effect in June of this year.

As the federal government works on massaging that ruling into law, Comox general practitioner Dr. Jonathan Reggler is lobbying hard to make sure that law applies to hospitals across the board.

He believes leaving a loophole for faith-based institutions will create inequities for smaller communities like the Comox Valley that are only served by a single, faith-based hospital. He predicts patients being transported away from their families to hospitals in Campbell River or Nanaimo, and their care turned over to an unfamiliar team of doctors and nurses, when there is no good medical reason to do so.

“It’s something rather disturbing that we can boot someone because it doesn’t suit the doctrine of the hospital,” he said. “This is not about church-bashing. There is no place for a faith-based organization to assert its will over the Charter of Rights.”

St. Joseph’s CEO Jane Murphy said her organization is awaiting legislative guidance, but the views of the church are clear.

“We can’t speculate as to the finer points of what the legislation may look like. Our position on physician-assisted death is consistent with the Catholic Health Care Ethical Guidelines, and St. Joseph’s will not be providing or promoting physician-assisted death,” she said in a prepared statement. “We are hopeful that legislation will respect the diverse perspectives on physician-assisted death.”

Reggler said the lawmakers and the policy makers need to recognize that even though the church owns the hospital’s bricks and mortar, it serves a larger community. He said just 12 per cent of the community is Catholic, while 87 per cent of British Columbians support doctor-assisted dying.

And while St. Joseph’s is Vancouver Island’s only Catholic hospital, the Comox situation is repeated in many communities across Canada and affects several big city hospitals as well.

He said he support’s the most recent recommendations of the federal committee drafting the new law and encourages Vancouver Islanders to lobby their MPs directly and through the website dyingwithdignity.ca to see them adopted.

“The whole point of what I’m doing is that it is crucial that all publicly funded hospitals be required to provide this service,” he said. “The hospital would prohibit it unless ordered otherwise.

Murphy said the hospital remains committed to providing exemplary care to those nearing the end of their lives.

“We will continue to emphasize compassionate end-of-life care through palliative and hospice care approaches and we will work within the legislative framework that is developed,” she said.

Reggler agreed that the end-of-life care provided at St. Joseph’s is excellent, but said there is an opportunity here to make it better that shouldn’t be missed.

“We will have in this community a few people who will die at St. Joseph’s in pain and distress and they did not need to. And it will happen.”

Assisted dying rules followed by Island Health

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has issued a statement on how it plans to deal with Vancouver Island-based doctor-assisted dying requests prior to June

“During the interim period before the federal government brings in legislation later this spring, the courts will ensure appropriate safeguards are in place if someone was to seek a physician-assisted death. No physician can engage in assisted dying unless there is an exemption granted by court order.

“In addition, both the B.C. Courts and the College of Physicians and Surgeons have published guidelines regarding safe and appropriate access to physician-assisted death during the interim period. These include requirements that two physicians submit evidence as part of a court application and that physicians must have the appropriate skills, training and competencies to carry out this service.

“In the event health authorities, including Island Health, became aware of an application for a physician-assisted death in our facilities, we would liaise with the Ministry of Health and follow processes set out by the courts, the college, the Ministry and any other regulatory agencies.”

 

Just Posted

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s so easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton of Point Roberts, Wash.

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

The number of skilled trades workers available is not enough to fill the current construction boom in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Supply of skilled tradespeople can’t keep up to Vancouver Island construction boom

Thousands of positions will be needed by 2030, despite flow of Camosun trades students

Most Read