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A Vancouver doctor accused of “sneaking in and killing someone” at a Jewish nursing home has been cleared of wrongdoing by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.
The Louis Brier Home and Hospital filed a complaint last year after Dr. Ellen Wiebe provided a resident with medical assistance in dying (MAiD) on site in 2017.
Barry Hyman, 83, had lung cancer and was suffering the after-effects of a stroke, and had insisted on a medically-assisted death in his room at the nursing home. His family made a formal request for him to do so, but it was denied.
In a July 5 letter, the college’s lawyer informed Wiebe she would not face any discipline for helping Hyman defy the rules and die in his room.
“Having determined that you had not breached college standards by performing MAiD on a resident of Louis Brier, the committee was not critical of your provision of MAiD to Mr. Hyman,” the letter reads.
The college now considers the matter closed, though the nursing home can apply to the Health Professions Review Board for a review.
Wiebe described the decision as “the right thing to do” in an interview with CBC.
“It was a decision I was expecting because I trust the college,” she said Wednesday.
Hyman’s daughter, Lola Hyman, has also responded, praising Wiebe in a written statement.
“The college’s decision reflects Dr. Wiebe’s professionalism and her commitment to putting the patient at the centre of their own care. Because of her, my father realized his deeply held wish to end his life in peace without having to leave his home. For this, I will always be grateful,” she said.
Louis Brier allows residents to undergo assessments for a medically-assisted death on site, but says they must be transferred to another health-care facility to have the procedure done. It’s common for faith-based facilities to bar assisted death and sometimes even assessments for the procedure on site.
CBC has reached out to the nursing home for comment on the college’s decision.
In an interview with the Vancouver Sun last year, Louis Brier CEO David Keselman described Wiebe’s actions as “borderline unethical.”
“We have a lot of Holocaust survivors. To have a doctor sneak in and kill someone without telling anyone, they’re going to feel like they’re at risk,” Keselman was quoted as saying.
Wiebe, on the other hand, believes religious facilities like Louis Brier should not be able to implement blanket bans on medically-assisted deaths.
“It’s so very important that we understand that it’s not an institution or a building that has conscience rights. It is only people who do,” she said.
The advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada, points out that long-term facilities like Louis Brier are people’s homes.
“It is wrong to require an intensely suffering person to leave their home in order for them to access their constitutionally protected right to medical assistance in dying. We hope this ruling will encourage more health-care facilities to work together with clinicians to protect residents’ end-of-life wishes and rights,” spokesperson Cory Ruf wrote in an email.
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the ban on medically-assisted death in 2016, and legislation allowing for MAiD came into effect the following year.
Most provinces allow publicly funded religious hospitals and care homes to deny medically-assisted deaths on site.