Ottawa, Ontario February 20, 2020
Palliative Care Under Siege
Two Canadian palliative care facilities, one in North Bay and the other in Ladner B.C. have been under siege by advocates of medical assistance in dying (MAID) to require them to release some beds to carry out assisted suicide and euthanasia procedures.
This appears to be a developing pattern that, if left unchecked, may destroy palliative care in Canada.
- The B.C. NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix has threatened to withdraw funding from palliative care services in that province (except faith-based services, which have been exempted from his directive) unless palliative care services release beds for assisted suicide patients.
- A recently opened hospice in North Bay called the Nipissing Serenity Hospice, is under pressure by four physicians in that area to release hospice beds to provide assisted suicide for any patient that may be admitted to the hospice.
The policies of palliative care and assisted suicide are incompatible. The principle of a hospice is to support patients to live comfortably and fully in their last days. It focuses on improving quality of life care for those living with life-threatening conditions. This is a completely different approach than that of MAID, which directly terminates a patient’s life to relieve the patient’s suffering.
The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care have supported the position of the two pressured hospices. In a joint statement, they upheld the fact that hospice palliative care is not compatible with MAID, as assisted suicide is not one of the tools in the “palliative care basket”. Further, it stated that national and international hospice palliative care organizations were unified in the position that MAID is not part of the practice of hospice palliative care.
The Supreme Court of Canada, at the time it legalized assisted suicide (Carter vs. Attorney General, February 2015), stated that assisted suicide would only occur in exceptional cases. This has not happened. In the nearly four years since the MAID legislation was passed, approximately 14,000 patients have been killed by MAID.
The Trudeau government recently announced plans to further expand the MAID legislation. This amendment will increase the use of MAID and the demand for beds to provide patients with assisted death.
The importance of access to high-quality palliative care was recognized in December 2017 when Parliament passed the Framework for Palliative Care in Canada Act which mandated the federal Minister of Health to develop a framework to support improved access for Canadians to palliative care. Additionally, the 2017 federal budget put aside $10 billion for palliative care. It appears that none of this money has been distributed.
Whatever one’s views on assisted suicide (MAID), it is clear that many patients want and need palliative care in their end-of-life care. They should be able to choose the MAID-free environment provided by hospices dedicated to this purpose.
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For further information contact:
REAL Women of Canada
Western Canada Board Member
REAL Women of Canada