Vancouver Island doctors call for higher compensation for medically-assisted death


WATCH: Some Vancouver Island doctors say they aren’t being compensated enough to provide medically-assisted death. One has already said he’ll stop that part of his practice. Calvin To has more. 

Some Vancouver Island doctors say they aren’t being compensated enough to provide medically-assisted death and want the province’s fee schedule changed.

Dr. Stefanie Green is one of British Columbia’s most experienced practitioners. She has provided the service to around 50 people since it became legal last year. She says she earns about half of what an average family physician would make in the same amount of time.

“I think at this point it’s reasonable that some of my colleagues have just put their foot down and said, ‘enough is enough, we can’t afford to keep doing this,'” Green said. “It’s been over a year and people are losing money providing this care.”

Recently, Victoria-based doctor Jesse Pewarchuk wrote a letter to his colleagues to inform them he will no longer provide doctor-assisted death.

“When you’re not in the office, you still have to pay for your secretary, you still have to pay for your rent, you still have to pay for your lighting and heating and water and all of the other sundry expenses associated with that,” Dr. Pewarchuk said. “And so, when you factor all that in, what that essentially amounts to [is] paying physicians who are doing the [medically assisted death] procedure itself $25 to $30 an hour.”

Pewarchuk said it can often take half a day to complete the procedure, in addition to around three-and-a-half hours for counselling. 

But Doctors of B.C., the group that represents physicians in the province, says the new fees, which come into effect later this month, are simply a starting point and are currently in line with time-based fees for similar types of work.

“We have to consider this service in light of what we’re paid for everything else that we do.  And I don’t think it makes sense to make it worth far more than some of the other equally intense work that some of the other people do,” Doctors of B.C. President Trina Larsen Soles said. 

The fees will be reviewed in three to six months by Doctors of B.C. as well as the province to see if adjustments need to be made.

In the meantime, Green said it is patients who will suffer if doctors stop providing the service.

“You can actually say the date, the time, who will be with you and how you’re going to say goodbye. To tease them with that possibility and then say, ‘It’s legal but you can’t have it,’ is cruel.”

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