New society launched in wake of Delta hospice battle over medically assisted death

·2 min read
Officials mark the reopening of the Irene Thomas Hospice under the operation of the Fraser Health authority on April 15. (Submitted by Fraser Health/Steve Ray  - image credit)
Officials mark the reopening of the Irene Thomas Hospice under the operation of the Fraser Health authority on April 15. (Submitted by Fraser Health/Steve Ray - image credit)

On the heels of a power struggle and legal fight sparked by a decision to disallow medically assisted death at the Irene Thomas Hospice in Delta, B.C., community advocates have launched a new society that they say will "embrace all end-of-life choices."

In a release announcing the Heron Hospice Society, president Chris Pettypiece said the organization "will offer compassionate end-of-life programs for individuals and families experiencing grief and loss and aims to support the Irene Thomas Hospice, managed by Fraser Health Authority."

Fraser Health took control of the 10-bed Irene Thomas Hospice last month after the province withdrew $1.5 million in annual funding from former operator Delta Hospice Society over its December 2019 decision to stop allowing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) services to residents who requested it.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the Delta Hospice Society of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that ruled the society's board of directors could not hand-pick members who support their Christian views and position on MAiD, while rejecting those who don't.

The Delta Hospice Society argued that, as a private society, it had the right to choose members.

Pettypiece helped lead the legal campaign against the Delta Hospice Society and was an organizer of the Take Back Delta Hospice community group.

Delta Mayor George Harvie said he supports the new Heron Hospice Society.

"The return of the Irene Thomas Hospice to the people of Delta under the leadership of Fraser Health has been a long time coming," he said.

Although the Delta Hospice Society no longer controls the Irene Thomas Hospice or the adjacent Harold & Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, it still owns and operates the fundraising Charity Shoppe in Tsawwassen.

According to the release, Heron Hospice Society membership is limited to residents of Delta aged 19 or older.