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Home care agencies forced to become euthanasia facilitators

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

05/03/2017

OTTAWA (CCN) — Provincially funded home care agencies are becoming facilitators for patients seeking euthanasia at home instead of in hospital.

The Champlain Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) that serves the Ottawa area even posts on its websites the items it offers in a MAID (Medical Aid in Dying) supply kit. CCAC will help co-ordinate the MAID procedure for eligible patients and supply nursing help and support for the patient, family and caregivers, while the patient’s physician administers the lethal dose.

The CCACs in Ontario, similar agencies in British Columbia and other provinces, are “being told they have to be involved in this as an agency receiving money from the government,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. “They not only help people get home care or get into nursing homes, they are helping them get lethal injections.”

“It’s being considered an obligation on their part because they receive government money,” Schadenberg said. “People who would normally not be involved with such things at all are now involved in killing people or promoting it.”

“A lot of people shocked,” he said. “They thought they never would have to be directly involved are now finding they have to do so.”

“This issue is all-encompassing, it’s affecting all of us, all of us are being forced to be involved in it one way or another,” he said. “It’s a very difficult problem, especially for those who believe life has intrinsic value and that we don’t kill people.”

“We have similar initiatives staking shape, mostly around Montreal and Quebec City,” said Living With Dignity executive director Aubert Martin. “It’s not as organized as it seems to be in Ontario.”

Martin said it is “quite shocking” that Quebec is providing services for euthanasia, such as a physician on call who can be paged to provide the service within 24 hours to an eligible person in great pain. The doctor is there “not to help them adjust their pain medication but to answer their request to die,” he said.

Palliative care physicians know that patients who have been in great pain for months need 24 hours to get rid of the pain. “Instead of treating the pain, they are killing the patient,” Martin said.

Introducing euthanasia into palliative care and home care means “people are less reassured than they were before,” he said. “They won’t have access to proper pain treatment because of fear.”

Teresa Buonafede of Orangeville, Ont., relies on the CCAC for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) to care for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. “They have been so helpful and pleasant to deal with.”

“I am horrified that the Community Care Access Centre and Personal Support Workers could in fact be pushing their clients and their families to sign up for home deaths and to actually assist in these deaths,” Buonafede said. “That would not be care and that would not be support; that would be murder.”

“How can we trust these organizations with the care of our family members?” she asked. “What will happen when family members are pitted against each other?”

“I fear for the elderly and disabled, who could have a great rapport with their PSWs but will slowly be convinced in their old age or in their infirmity that killing them is one of the services they provide and that they should seriously look into,” she said.

“This upsets me very much,” said Maria Pirrone of Ottawa, who was the primary caregiver for both her late mother and late mother-in-law, and received assistance from CCAC for both loved ones.

Pirrone expressed concern for the PSWs who do not have lengthy training. “I don’t think they understand the impact and severity of their getting involved,” she said.

Not only physicians’ conscience rights are affected but also those of nurses, PSWs, everyone in the agency, she said.

“I’m concerned for the patients,” she said. “My mother-in-law used to say, ‘I can’t wait ’til it’s over.’ It didn’t mean she wanted to leave the earth.”

“When a person is in a lot of pain, or extremely fatigued, they will say things,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that’s what they really want.”

“I am so scared,” Pirrone said. “There’s going to be a lot more deaths for no reason.”

Schadenberg said there’s a need to set up safe places where people know they will not be abandoned to lethal injection. “This is all shocking,” he said. “They want no opposition. They are giving no opportunity for people to bow out of this.”

He noted a few Catholic institutions are not participating, as well as some individual hospices.

“We are not denying anyone rights, we are protecting people at a vulnerable time in their lives,” he said.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has set up an agency, called Compassionate Community Care, to help people combat the pressures to embrace euthanasia. It can be reached at 1-855-675-8749.

“It provides people with a place to contact when they are having difficulties and don’t have a place to turn,” Schadenberg said. “It provides advice on medical issues and euthanasia assisted suicide issues.”

A nurse responds to the calls to help people with “difficult questions and listens to peoples’ concerns at their time of need,” he said.

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