British Columbia

B.C. pulls $1.5M in funding from Metro Vancouver hospice for refusing to allow assisted dying

The Delta Hospice Society will lose 94 per cent of its funding for 10 hospice beds it operates after its board voted not to allow medical assistance in dying in defiance of federal laws and B.C. policy.

Delta Hospice Society board voted not to provide medical assistance in dying

The Irene Thomas Hospice is pictured in Delta, B.C., on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Delta Hospice Society is losing $1.5 million in government funding — the equivalent of 94 per cent of its operating budget for 10 hospice beds — for refusing to provide medical assistance in dying (MAiD).

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the money provided to DHS annualy from Fraser Health will be terminated one year from today, the time required to end the service agreement without cause. 

"We have made every effort to support the board to come into compliance and they have been clear that they have no intention to," said Dix.

"We are taking this action reluctantly, and when the role of the Delta Hospice Society concludes, patients in publicly funded hospice care will again be able to fully access their medical rights."

MAiD was passed into federal law in 2016, allowing for Canadians who meet the criteria to have a medically assisted death. The province subsequently developed a policy requiring facilities with over 50 per cent publicly funded beds to allow patients to access MAID.

DHS operates the 10 beds at the Irene Thomas Hospice which sits on Fraser Health land in Ladner. 

The Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta is losing most of its provincial funding for 10 hospice it operates. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Delta South Liberal MLA Ian Paton accused the NDP government of being heavy-handed.

"What I see is government literally stealing assets of the people of Delta that worked so hard for so many years to raise $8.5 million for this facility," said Paton. 

He would not say whether he supported or opposed MAiD.

"It's a very heated debate in our community whether people are for or against MAiD and that's something I'm not willing to go to."

Dix said eligible British Columbians have the right to receive MAiD.

"The crucial point in all of this is that it is the patients' interests and the patients' choices that matter most," he said. "It is not a decision that any organization can influence or impose on patients."

A new DHS board of directors reversed the previous board's position on MAiD two weeks after it was elected in December 2019.

CBC has reached out to board chair Angelina Ireland for comment, but did not hear back.

Liberal MLA Norm Letnick said there needs to be clarity around the future of the facility.

"One way that the government could help in lowering the temperature on the issue is to make it clear that they plan to work with the people of Delta to make sure that the investment they've made through their donations is respected," he said.