Patients at new hospice in North Bay cannot have a medically assisted death

A group of North Bay doctors who help people end their lives wants the board of the new Nipissing Serenity Hospice to change its philosophy and allow medical assistance in dying.

North Bay doctors want hospice board to change its philosophy on medical assistance in dying

“We don't believe that MAID is a tool in the tool basket of giving someone relief in pain and symptom management," says Nipissing Serenity Hospice board chair, Vivian Papaiz. (CBC)

A group of doctors in North Bay wants to be able to offer medical assistance in dying, or MAID, at the new hospice in North Bay, and they've sent a letter to the hospice urging them to reconsider. 

But the Nipissing Serenity Hospice doesn't believe in hastening the end of life.

Dr. Michael Leckie said MAID is available at home or in hospital. And he thinks it should be available at the hospice as well.

Leckie says there are four doctors who provide medically assisted death in North Bay. MAID has been legal in Canada since 2016.

"We've been waiting anxiously for a year or two now to find out whether assisted death would be permitted in our hospice," Leckie said. 

"The board had passed unanimously that they would allow medically assisted death in our new hospice and we were under that assumption, as were a lot of people in North Bay including our MP, our MPP and our city mayor," he added. 

But since the hospice opened in early January, Leckie said they have posted information on its website that MAID would not be an option. . 

"I think we've provided an excellent service in our community and we want to provide that in our hospice," Leckie said. "We're just hoping that maybe the board will change their philosophy and allow assisted death in the hospice."

Nipissing Serenity Hospice is a new facility in North Bay. (Bienvenu Senga/Radio-Canada)

The doctors take exception to the fact that a patient who has the legal right to an assisted death cannot have that option in the hospice, which is a publicly-funded building. 

Vivian Papaiz , board chair of Nipissing Serenity Hospice, said there was "no question" physicians offer a very important service in the community. 

"We believe we can do pain and symptom management and care for people by giving them excellent quality palliative care," Papaiz said. "We don't believe that MAID is a tool in the tool basket of giving someone relief in pain and symptom management."  

Papaiz added that national and international hospice palliative care organizations are unified in the position that MAID is not part of the practice of hospice palliative care. 

"The subject matter experts in hospice palliative care jointly have come up with the statement recently that really clarifies the relationship around what MAID is and what hospice palliative care is," Papaiz said.

Papaiz said medically assisted death is available elsewhere in the community and the hospice has decided to focus entirely on offering palliative care.

With files from Bienvenu Senga


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