Humanists welcome lawsuit against St Paul's MAID obstructions

The BC Humanist Association (BCHA) supports the legal action taken by Dr Jyothi Jayaraman and the family of Samantha O’Neill against Providence Health Care and the Province of British Columbia. The lawsuit challenges health authority and provincial policies prohibiting medical assistance in dying (MAID) within the facilities, violating patients’ Charter rights.

Last year, Samantha O’Neill sought end-of-life care at St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. Providence Health Care is a Catholic organization that opposes MAID and operates the hospital. Providence's policies required O'Neill to transfer to a secular facility to access MAID. Tragically, Samantha died shortly after being heavily sedated for the transfer.

Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BCHA:

No one should suffer needlessly at the end of life. Denying patients the right to a dignified death, including saying goodbye to loved ones, is a violation of their fundamental rights.

In 1995, the Government of BC signed a Master Agreement with religious healthcare facilities permitting them to establish policies that "preserve the spiritual nature of the facility." At the time, this largely meant they could refuse to provide abortion and reproductive healthcare. Following the Carter decision, the boards of many of these faith-based facilities also blocked access to MAID.

These policies have persisted even though the overwhelming majority of Canadians, including those with a religious faith, support MAID.

Support for the Carter v Canada decision by religious identity

The BCHA has previously called on the province to tear up the Master Agreement, saying it undermines the government's duty of religious neutrality. Hundreds of constituents have said the same to their MLA.

Bushfield added:

We are watching this lawsuit closely and will continue urging the province to stop putting the interests of these institutions ahead of the rights of individual British Columbians. Those who agree should call on their MLA, and candidates in the upcoming election, to support equitable access to healthcare.

Dying With Dignity Canada is acting as the public interest litigant in the case and is represented by Arvay Finlay. They are seeking additional stories of individuals who've been subjected to a forced transfer due to institutional religious obstructions. Share your story


Image credit: Vancouver Coastal Health

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