Volunteers needed to aid medically assisted deaths - InfoNews

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Volunteers needed to aid medically assisted deaths

Dying with Dignity's Okanagan chapter is looking for volunteers to work with medical assistance in death patients.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Dying with Dignity Facebook page
January 22, 2020 - 7:00 PM

As the number of people wishing for medically assisted death continues to grow, a local support group is having trouble keeping up and looking for volunteers.

Provincial Health Services spokesperson Laura Stovel says there were 560 medically assisted deaths in the Interior Health region between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2019, with 247 of those medically assisted deaths taking place last year alone.

The province does not have numbers of assisted deaths broken down by municipality, only by health region, Stovel says.

Dying with Dignity Okanagan chair Miriam Tetler says her organization formed an Okanagan chapter in 2017 to cover the Okanagan Valley from Vernon to Penticton.

“We started with six volunteers and have gradually increased numbers. We would like to ideally have a volunteer witness in every community,” she said in an email.

The role of a volunteer witness is to authenticate paperwork for Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID).

Medical assistance in dying occurs when an authorized doctor or nurse practitioner provides or administers medication that intentionally brings about a person’s death, at that person’s request. The procedure is only available to eligible persons.

The law requires two independent witnesses, and with Dying with Dignity, the service is provided free to those requesting it.

Tetler says witnesses can’t be family members or anyone that would benefit from the person’s death.

"The Okanagan chapter will provide two witnesses and a proxy if the patient is unable to sign the form,” she says.

Tetler says volunteers need to be available and compassionate as well as having an understanding of the Dying with Dignity philosophy.

Lori Goldman recently signed on as a volunteer for the Penticton area.

“It’s a valuable service. There have been only two or three requests in Penticton since 2016, but if people have the request, we need to have people available,” she says.

Goldman also noted the service is to provide a witness to the initial paperwork, not to witness the medically assisted death itself.

Medically assisted dying was made legal in Canada in June 2016, Prior to that, medically assisted death occurred only with court approval.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Miriam Tetler at 250-801-0662, or email at miriam.g.tetler@gmail.com.

More information can be found at the Dying with Dignity website here.


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