A doctor at the Comox Valley's St. Joseph's Hospital says he intends to offer assisted dying to his patients when it becomes legal, despite his hospital saying they will not allow it.

Dr. Jonathan Reggler is a family physician who serves many elderly patients. Since he's begun speaking out about his decision, he says he has received a great deal of support.

"I think it's something that many of my patients will ultimately choose for themselves," he told All Points West host Robyn Burns. "As that is something that it is likely my patients are going to ask me to do, I think I should."

Reggler wants to see legislation from the federal government make it mandatory for all health care facilities and hospices that accept public money to offer physician-assisted death whenever it is requested.

And while he does think individual health professionals should be able to opt out of being involved with physician-assisted death, he doesn't think entire hospitals should be able to opt out of it on religious grounds.

"I think particularly in the case of a Charter right of this type, it's completely wrong for any faith-based organization to say, 'You cannot have this right,'" he said.

Hospital hopeful legislation will respect 'diverse perspectives'

In a statement to All Points West, Jane Murphy, president and CEO of St. Joseph's wrote it is "premature" to speculate on pending legislation, "and, therefore, how health care providers, including denominational and faith-based facilities such as St. Joseph's, will need to respond."

"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," the statement read. "We are hopeful that legislation will respect the diverse perspectives on physician assisted death."

St. Joseph's Hospital

St. Joseph's Hospital in Comox. (Google Streetview)

For Reggler, St. Joseph's refusal raises bigger concerns about access.

The hospital is the only one serving the Comox Valley. So if that hospital refuses to provide the service, what alternatives are there?

"This is a problem mirrored in other places in B.C. and across Canada. It will be a real problem if patients are unable to access this Charter right," he said, adding that transferring patients to other facilities is not an acceptable solution.

"Which means a 60 to 90 minute journey to a community where their family probably doesn't live, where their doctor isn't practising and probably doesn't have privileges."


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Doctor at Catholic Comox Valley hospital says he will provide physician-assisted death