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Terminally ill Quinte residents can seek assisted death

By Nick Ogden [1], Demii Niles [2] and Brendan Burke [3]

BELLEVILLE – People in this area who are suffering from a terminal illness can now request help to end their life.

Last Tuesday, Quinte Health Care [4] chief of staff Dr. Dick Zoutman [5] announced at a QHC meeting that those looking for assisted death can now request the service from Belleville General Hospital [6]North Hastings Hospital [7], Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital [8]and Trenton Memorial Hospital [9].

Assisted dying became legal in Canada this past June, after the Liberal [10] government’s Bill C-14 [11] was passed by the Senate [12].

Many people have used social media to express their feelings on assisted dying.

Posted by Nick Ogden [13] on Monday, October 3, 2016 [14]

QHC spokesperson Susan Rowe said that the hospital team worked hard to ensure the issue was handled properly.

“The committee that we put together was excellent,” Rowe told QNet News this week. “They wanted to ensure that by providing the service to patients and to their families, that it was going to be offered in a very respectful, ethical and appropriate way. That was their main goal.”

The service won’t be taken lightly, she said. A lengthy process is involved once a patient asks for assistance in death.

“The process is very detailed to ensure that we are following every step within the legislation. For example, there is a waiting period that once somebody makes a request, you give them time to consider it.

“You provide them with any extra support and advice that they would like during that time to ensure that they have investigated all of their options fully, and are aware of what all of their options are.”

The waiting period is expected to be about 10 days, though patient’s case will be different, Rowe said.

During the waiting period, some services may be suggested for patients to look into. Helen Dowdall, the executive director of Hospice Quinte [15], said the not-for-profit organization would be happy to offer help in any way it could.

Hospice Quinte provides palliative care to terminally ill individuals and support to their caregivers in the Belleville [16], Quinte West [17] and South Hastings Region [18].

Executive director of Hospice Quinte, Helen Dowdall, says that the hospice's goal is to provide constant comfort for their patients and their families. Photo courtesy of Hospice Quinte

Executive director of Hospice Quinte Helen Dowdall says that the organization’s goal is to provide constant comfort for patients and their families. Photo courtesy of Hospice Quinte

“We would definitely welcome any referrals that came to us from the hospital,” Dowdall said. “In our logo is ‘Compassionate support through life’s journey,’ and I often say we focus on life and on living and improving quality of life so that people can die peacefully and to continue to live peacefully until death.”

The service doesn’t end at death, Dowdall said. “We’re not here to judge on what (the patients’) choices are, and if (patients who requested assisted death) were a part of our visiting hospice program, we would certainly continue to offer our bereavement support afterwards to family members.”

The legislation states that health-care professionals are not obligated to assist their patients with dying. They are, however, obligated to redirect patients who wish it to another professional who will.

Practical nursing student Ashley Hamon says that feelings about assisted dying can't be studied in any textbook. Photo courtesy of Ashley Hamon

Practical nursing student Ashley Hamon says that feelings about assisted dying can’t be studied in any textbook. Photo courtesy of Ashley Hamon

Ashley Hamon, a 20-year-old practical nursing student at Loyalist College, said that as a nurse, she would help her patients to die if they wanted it, even if she was saddened by it.

“As a nurse, I would have to follow their wishes, even if I’m against it. I also cannot provide them with false hope. So if someone were to ask me, no matter the age, I would help them.”

Hamon said she would feel better serving elderly patients as opposed to younger ones who might have a stronger chance of surviving over time. But she also said that people should have the choice: “They should have the right to die if it means allowing them to be pain-free.”

Alexis Devries, a pre-health student at Loyalist, had a family member in a situation where the assisted-death service would have been requested had it been available.

“My aunt had an allergic reaction where her brain was like a vegetable. She was kept on life support for a while. This just would have probably been a lot easier for my family if they could have let go and not have seen her in that position.”