Cheryl Rostek, who has terminal brain cancer, urges the Fraser Health board not to allow Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in hospices at the board’s public meeting April 11 in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Woman with brain cancer urges Fraser Health board to ban medically assisted dying in hospice

More than 100 attend emotional Chilliwack meeting that ended up focused on MAiD

Cheryl Rostek’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis means every moment she spends with her husband and three children is focused on living well.

As she addressed the board of Fraser Health at a public meeting held Wednesday in Chilliwack, her emphasis on “living” was intentional in an emotional entreaty to ban Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) from hospices.

“It comforts me greatly to know that my community has comprehensive palliative services,” Rostek told board chair Jim Sinclair, Fraser Health CEO Michael Marchbank and the rest of the board. “However, it alarms me that Fraser Health is on a path towards mandating that hospices provide MAiD. I strongly petition you to segregate MAiD from palliative and hospice services.”

More than 100 people packed into the small conference room at the Hampton Inn Wednesday morning, most of whom were there to hear the conversation about MAiD. This was made evident when virtually everyone in the room gave a standing ovation after Rostek read her words at the podium.

“To continue providing myself, my husband and my three young children with vital and life-bolstering care I sincerely urge Fraser Health to safeguard a palliative environment of vulnerability, openness and wholehearted support by excluding hospice programs and services from the provision of MAiD,” she said.

The controversial issue at stake is over the former BC Liberal government’s MAiD law and its implementation by the current government, and Fraser Health’s mandate that MAiD be provided at all Fraser Health facilities.

• READ MORE: Controversy over assisted dying in hospice growing in Chilliwack

Those opposed to allowing MAiD in hospices run the gamut from those strongly opposed to euthanasia on religious grounds to those who think there should be designated facilities for assisted suicide.

“I think it’s fair to say with out contradiction that this is a controversial issue,” Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair said after Rostek spoke.

He added, however, that the courts have mandated that MAiD is a fundamental legal right, so Fraser Health decided that a patient’s final place of rest should be where assisted suicide be allowed to take place, adding that it is wrong to move people out of hospice for the procedure.

“Our decision is that when people go to hospice they need to have the right to exercise their rights under the law,” Sinclair said, in part. “Hospices are people’s home, their last home, where they make some of the most important decisions.”

Chilliwack-Kent MLA Laurie Throness has spoken strongly against allowing MAiD in hospice.

“My concern is that people will fear that their safety is in jeopardy and they will avoid palliative care,” Throness said a month ago. At Wednesday’s meeting Throness was not present but his constituency assistant read a statement from the MLA again expressing his opposition.

“Societal pressure to accept MAiD is increasing rapidly and it threatens to permeate palliative care,” his statement said.

Sinclair pointed out there is some uncertainly exactly how the MAiD policy will roll out as there are hospices run by Fraser Health, ones contracted by the health authority, and ones run by religious denominations. Sinclair said religious hospices will not be ordered to permit MAiD, adding that no employee of Fraser Health will be required to participate.

Chilliwack Hospice Society executive director Sue Attrill said the society does not own or run the Cascade Hospice. That is done by a private, for-profit company, so the board overseeing the hospice has little say on Fraser Health policy.

“The mandate for MAID to be provided in hospices came from Fraser Health in December 2017,” Attrill said in an emailed statement from the society. “Chilliwack Hospice Society does not provide MAID. As a society we do not operate the hospice beds in Chilliwack. We do not provide services that hasten death or prolong life or offer medical advice or counseling. At Chilliwack Hospice Society, we provide emotional support to individuals and families during the dying and grieving process.”

Speaking out at the end of the meeting Wednesday, and underlying the religious underpinnings of much of the opposition to MAiD, was 85-year-old retired doctor Madeline McPherson who pointed to the Christian bioethics approach to medicine. She also quoted the Bible, and expressed her religious opposition to not only euthanasia but abortion.

“We have to remember when we are accepting a practice that perhaps contradict God’s plan, we are actually entering a stage where the future of our nation will be ending in a foreboding way,” she said to much applause.

But it was Rostek’s poignant words that drew the strongest reaction from the large crowd as she considered her own vulnerability, living as she has already past the average survival for individuals with her particular brain cancer.

“I plan to live until I succumb to my disease,” she said. “This is an entirely different mindset than choosing to die prematurely. These two mindsets cannot co-exist, certainly not housed under the same roof.”

• RELATED: Langley Hospice Society formalizes its opposition to medically assisted dying directive


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Cheryl Rostek, who has terminal brain cancer, urges the Fraser Health board not to allow Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) in hospices at the board’s public meeting April 11 in Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Fraser Health board chair Jim Sinclair (right) responds to the issue of MAiD in Hospice at the board’s public meeting April 11 in Chilliwack. On the left is Fraser Health CEO Michael Marchbank. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Dozens of people in attendance at the Fraser Health board’s public meeting April 11 in Chilliwack stand up to applaud after terminal brain cancer patient Cheryl Rostek spoke. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Retired doctor Madeline McPherson, 85, expresses her opposition to euthanasia to the Fraser Health board at its public meeting in Chilliwack on April 11. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Just Posted

District of Kent yet to set date for cannabis consultation

Open house, questionnaires coming before council makes decision on marijuana sales

Chilliwack artist’s design chosen for Orange Shirt Day

Fred Jackson’s design, The Bonding, is the image on this year’s T-shirt for Orange Shirt Day

Fraser River First Nations say they aren’t getting their share of sockeye

Shortage is a result of decisions made by DFO, not a shortage of sockeye, complaint says

More funding for Harrison tourism projects on the horizon

Village could see increased funding by 2020

Chilliwack celebrates Oktoberfest with Jens Lindemann and the Bergmann Duo

Jens Lindemann is one of Canada’s top trumpet soloists

VIDEO: More cameras, police coming after Marissa Shen killed in Burnaby park

B.C. privacy watchdog worries that the cameras are a ‘slow creep’ to a surveillance state

B.C. cancer patient’s case exposes gaps in care for homeless people: advocates

Terry Willis says he’s praying for a clean, safe place to live to undergo the cancer treatments he needs after he was denied chemotherapy because he lives in a Victoria homeless shelter.

Trump boasts of America’s might, gets laugh at UN

President Donald Trump received an unexpected laugh at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Federal use of A.I. in visa applications could breach human rights, report says

Impacts of automated decision-making involving immigration applications and how errors and assumptions could lead to “life-and-death ramifications”

Arborist killed by fallen tree at Maple Ridge Golf Course

Was working near the 9th tee box of the golf course.

Rattie scores 3 as Oilers blank Canucks 6-0

Vancouver slips to 1-5 in exhibition play

Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

Most Read