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On anniversary of partner's death, Vancouver man asks why local hospital still won't allow MAID

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Two years ago, Vancouverite Scott Harrison lost the love of his life.

His partner Christina Bates, who at age 53 was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer, was in palliative care at St Paul’s Hospital when she was forced to be transferred to Vancouver General Hospital on the morning of Nov. 7, 2021 in order to fulfill her wish of medical assistance in dying, or MAiD.

That’s because St Paul’s is overseen by Providence Health, which is operated by the Catholic Church and doesn’t allow MAiD in its facilities.

“It took away from the last moments I had with her,” said Harrison of the transfer in the final hours of Christina’s life. “It was a really stressful morning, the process was really painful,” he said, adding “There is a conversation I never got to have with her, because of interruptions and confusion and disarray around this.”

And he’s not alone. After 34-year-old cancer patient Sam O’Neill was medicated for her forced transfer from St. Paul’s in April, and didn’t wake up to say goodbye before her MAiD procedure at a hospice, her family — and Scott Harrison — began pushing health minister Adrian Dix for change.

”Either we have one rule of law for everybody delivering health care in British Columbia, or not. And it just seems like the “or not” is winning in the case of a Catholic-owned institution, and the minister seems to be unable to have the courage to do the right thing. And the right thing is to force Providence to change its behaviour,” said Harrison.

After facing public pressure, in June the health minister told CTV News he wants MAiD to be available at St. Paul’s, and was in discussions with Providence Health about making that happen. But five months later, it’s still not permitted at the publicly funded hospital. On Monday, Dix said those discussions are ongoing.

“We are making great progress, and I will have something to let people know about in the next couple of weeks. Everybody is working hard together. It’s important that we ensure people have access to healthcare services, and it’s important our long-standing relationship with Providence Health Care is maintained,” said Dix.

But Harrison says that’s not good enough.

“Why can’t it be done right now? Can the minister not threaten to pull all of their funding? They’re going to receive almost a billion dollars in medical service premiums, and they will not provide this service. They have the vast majority of our palliative care beds where this service is required and needed, and this minister is really letting down British Columbians, certainly those dying of terminal illnesses,” Harrison said.

The health minister is pleading for patience. “We are working together to find permanent solutions, and sometimes that takes a little while,” said Dix.

Harrison says there’s no time to waste.

“There is going to be somebody this week that’s going to be forced out of St. Paul’s palliative care to have medically-available treatment,” he said.

On the two-year anniversary of his partner’s death, he’s still angry about the forced transfer, and doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else.

“Christina and I, we always joked about how when we got older, we would fight for better MAiD access for everybody,” Harrison said.

Now he’s continuing that fight without her.

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