SURREY, British Columbia (ChurchMilitant.com) - A devout Catholic family caring for its elderly mother at home in Canada was shocked when health officials came and threatened to file charges if they did not release her for doctor-assisted death.
Eighty-four-year-old Joan Rohoway of Surrey, British Columbia is being treated for late-stage cancer and receiving care at home from her daughter Pamela. In a June 28 story from online newspaper B.C. Catholic, Rohoway said, "I want to live."
Her ordeal began in May while receiving palliative care at a local hospital, where a physician talked to her about Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) and claimed there was no further treatment for her condition. Later, the doctor insisted Rohoway had asked for MAiD. Her pro-life and devoutly Catholic family refused to believe this and filed a complaint.
Even after Rohoway went home, two representatives of Canada's public health system visited and threatened to file a lawsuit against her family for opposing them. On a subsequent visit, Rohoway clearly told the officials she "absolutely" did not want MAiD, adding, "I want to stay here."
The authorities relented, but Rohoway and family members say they no longer trust officials from the health system.
Alex Schadenberg of the international Euthanasia Prevention Coalition says Rohoway's case is no surprise. "It's really gone crazy here," Schadenberg told Church Militant.
"In British Columbia," he observed, "it's expected that the doctor or nurse practitioner will provide all options. So, if someone is talking to them about 'options,' one of the options to be discussed is MAiD. To me, this is a form of coercion."
Under current law, he added, "There is no effective oversight for doctors providing MAiD. There is no way to control them."
In Canada, MAiD can be given after two physicians approve.
Schadenberg believes British Columbia "historically has been in the lead" of assisted suicide in Canada, noting, "You have this longtime cultural push for euthanasia in B.C. The leadership for this has historically come out of B.C."
According to Canadian government statistics, the rate of physician-assisted deaths (MAiD) in British Columbia reached 4% of all deaths in 2020, nearly double the national rate.
Referring to Rohoway, Schadenberg said:
No one is claiming that she wasn't discussing MAiD with the physician. But the physician may have taken this as a request. The family is saying "Hold on a second!" and now they're being treated like bad people because they are standing in the way of their mother's "rights." This is a ridiculous concept because what they are doing is taking her into their home and caring for her. They love their mom in her final days and [are] doing what we should all be doing.
Schadenberg identified doctors Ellen Wiebe and Stefanie Green as leaders in the "right-to-die" movement in British Columbia. According to her website, Dr. Wiebe not only provides abortions at the Willow Women's Clinic in Vancouver, but also developed Hemlock Aid to assist doctors and patients with MAiD. Her abortuary and assisted-death practices are located at the same address. Green provides MAiD and approves MAiD carried out by others. In addition, she is the founder and president of the Canadian Association of MAiD Assessors and Providers, which means she publicly advocates for MAiD practitioners. She is also a consultant to the public health system.
Schadenberg recalled Wiebe had to defend herself in 2018 against accusations of "sneaking in and killing someone" at an orthodox Jewish retirement facility. Weibe claimed she did nothing wrong by fulfilling the patient's request for assisted suicide. She was later cleared by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons.
A June 7 report by the country’s Ministry of Health showed British Columbia's MAiD rate now rivals that of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where the rate of euthanasia is the world's highest, at 4.1%. British Columbia's rate of physician-assisted death reached 3.3% in 2019, while Canada's national rate for physician-assisted death was 2.5%.
She testified MAiD in 2020 represented 2.5% of all deaths in Canada, up from 2% in 2019. However, Canadian pro-life advocates have questioned her figures, arguing the percentage is actually much higher.
Canada's Parliament reformed its criminal code when it passed Bill C–7, Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), on March 17, broadening access to physician-assisted suicide. The measure expands assisted suicide beyond current rules, which only allow it for the terminally ill.
According to the Canadian Ministry of Health, "After March 17, 2023, people with a mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition will have access to MAiD if they are eligible and the practitioners fulfill the safeguards that are put in place for this group of people."
Parliament is also weighing whether to allow MAiD for minors.
Canada saw an upsurge of patients reporting depression during COVID lockdowns in 2020. Ministry of Justice official Joanne Klineberg admitted to Parliament requests for physician-assisted suicide will likely increase because of Bill C–7.
Quebec's pro-life Physicians Alliance Against Euthanasia warned MAiD has become "medical administration of death" and declared medicine "has been transformed into a technical occupation that allows physicians to deliberately end the lives of their suffering patients."