A motion for a letter of support for a Wellington County hospice project failed because medical assistance in dying would be part of what the facility would offer
WELLINGTON CENTER – After a debate that included examining the ethics of physician-assisted dying, some councilors felt put on the spot and ultimately voted against sending a letter of support to the province for a rural hospice project.
Retired Dr. Alan Simpson, a member of a Wellington Center board delegation, has requested assistance in securing provincial funding through a letter of support or equivalent for a site palliative care in Wellington County.
In late May, Wellington County announced a commitment of two acres of land on the Wellington Place campus in Aboyne for a six-bed palliative care site. Simpson thanked the county for their donation and letter of support.
Simpson said those letters of support gave MPP Ted Arnott “ammunition” to start a conversation with the Department of Health, as there is currently no formal application process for hospice funding in the province.
“Every few years they may make the decision to say there will be a hospice at ‘ABC’, but we don’t have a formal request yet. It has to be a political process with the help of Ted and also the support of our community,” Simpson said.
He noted that the Wellington Hospice in Guelph was a good facility, but was not as able to serve Wellington County residents due to distance.
He also noted that the facility does not provide MAID, which Simpson said those behind the rural hospice were looking to provide as an option.
Com. Stephen Kitras asked Simpson if they weren’t collaborating with Wellington Hospice over the MAID issue, as he felt the group was looking to grow.
Simpson said the Rural Palliative Care Advisory Group previously worked with Wellington Hospice, but pointed out that MAID was an issue for them, but clarified that MAID would simply be an option.
Kitras went on to talk about multiple painful experiences he had watching loved ones die, including his parents, a brother-in-law, his sister and his first wife.
“I understand very well the politics of death and death in Canada, the experience of death and death is the deepest experience of humanity,” Kitras said before declaring his opposition to the support of the site of the rural hospice and MAID on the basis of his principles as a Christian. .
A motion was then presented on the floor by the councillor. Neil Dunsmore will send a letter of support for the rural hospice site. Mayor Kelly Linton said council, having received SIMpson’s correspondence before, could make a decision on it that day.
Kitras said he thinks there should be more discussion about this rather than a “sleight of hand slipped into the community in the last hours of the council before it becomes a lame duck.”
Dunsmore commented that he, too, had seen people die without the ability to end their lives whenever they wanted.
“I had to sit with them for 10 days as they struggled and it was the most inhumane thing I had ever seen,” Dunsmore said. “If this hospice is willing to give people choice, in consultation with their doctors and families, then choice is what we should be giving them.”
Com. Bob Foster moved a deferral motion because he wanted more time to reflect and discuss this issue with voters. This motion failed in defiance of counsel. Kirk McElwain who said he mostly supported the motion but also wasn’t ready to make a decision on it.
Com. Ian MacRae also noted that he was unprepared but ultimately supportive as he believed patients should have the right to decide for themselves.
As the mayor called the question to a vote, the councilman. Steven VanLeeuwen arrived at the meeting because he was late.
On a recorded vote, the motion to send a letter of support failed 4-3. Linton, MacRae and Dunsmore were in favor.
Kitras and McElwain voted against, though McElwain noted he was reluctant, while Foster and VanLeeuwen abstained, which counts as a no.