A patient seeking medical help to die had to be transferred out of the Maison Albatros, a palliative care home in Trois-Rivières, because staff at the hospice weren't willing to assist him, CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada has learned.

The incident happened earlier this summer.

In accordance with Quebec's law on doctor-assisted death which went into effect last December, with no doctor on staff willing to carry out the procedure, the patient was transferred to the Centre hospitalier de Trois-Rivières.

Staff 'shaken up' by request

Most of the palliative care home's personnel were "shaken up" by the patient's request, the director of the Maison Albatros, Anne-Marie Hébert, told Radio-Canada. 

She said the man had been a patient there for some time, and staff at the palliative care home had become attached to him.

All palliative care establishments in Quebec are required to set out their policy on end-of-life care, specifying exactly what measures they're prepared to offer.

"Did this gentleman lack some information?" Hébert asked, saying she was uncertain if it had been made clear to the patient when he arrived that the hospice wasn't prepared to offer medical assistance in dying.

'Comfort care' only

She said the case has prompted the refuge for terminally ill patients to change its procedures: Now new patients are required to sign a paper indicating that they understand they will only receive "comfort care."

The Maison Albatros isn't the only palliative care establishment to take this position: of the 31 such centres in Quebec, only two – the Maison René Verrier in Drummondville, and the Maison Aube-Lumière in Sherbrooke – offer medical assistance to die.

Earlier this summer, Health Minister Gaètan Barrette slammed the McGill University Health Centre for failing to amend a policy that requires terminally ill patients seeking a doctor-assisted death to transfer out of its palliative care unit.

That controversy stemmed from the case last April of a palliative care patient who was transferred to a different unit within the hospital before receiving a doctor's help to die.

with files from Radio-Canada