In a letter dated July 5, 2019, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) dismissed an official complaint against doctor Ellen Wiebe, saying the Vancouver doctor did not break any of the regulator’s rules when she helped a man of 83 dying.
The man died inside the Louis Brier Home and Hospital, an Orthodox Jewish nursing home that forbids assisted death of its residents.
The CPSBC decision is believed to mark the first time that a medical regulator has weighed in on the thorny question of whether doctors could be professionally punished for defying the wishes of a faith-based health-care facility in order to fulfill those of a patient eligible for a medically assisted death. However, the self-regulating colleges in each province – all of which have the power to grant and revoke medical licences – generally keep their decisions secret unless they send a case to a formal disciplinary hearing.
In this instance, Dr. Wiebe shared the college’s letter with the advocacy group Dying with Dignity Canada and The Globe and Mail. The CPSBC declined to comment, citing privacy legislation. “It was what I expected,” Dr. Wiebe said recently of the inquiry committee’s decision. “I had done the right thing and I trust our College of Physicians to recognize that.”
David Keselman, the chief executive officer of Louis Brier, criticized the college’s decision and said his organization has tightened its credentialing and privileging process to prevent others from following Dr. Wiebe’s example. “I think [the college] disregarded many of the elements that were in the complaint,” Mr. Keselman said, stressing how upsetting it was to learn afterward that a doctor had managed to sneak into the home without staff’s permission.
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