As court considers euthanasia, 55 Canadian MPs call for ‘quality end-of-life care’
OTTAWA, Ontario, November 17, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Canadian parliamentary committee today released what they say is a “landmark report” calling for improvement in healthcare for the elderly, the dying, and vulnerable Canadians.
The report, titled ‘”Not to be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians,’” calls for “quality end-of-life care for all Canadians.”
Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) and one of the country’s leading experts on end-of-life issues, welcomed the report. “What the report is talking about is how we should be providing better care for Canadians, not euthanasia or assisted suicide,” he said.
The PCPCC report was released just two days after the commencement of a case in British Columbia in which the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Gloria Taylor, a 63-year-old woman suffering from ALS, are challenging Canada’s laws against assisted suicide.
The ad hoc Parliamentary Committee, an all party group of more than 55 MPs, convened in April 2010 to respond to what they saw as a “deeply felt concern” expressed by Canadians regarding the practice of palliative care in the country.
The report, crafted after 24 hearings and hundreds of testimonies, calls for an “integrated community care model” for a country that the authors say is largely failing to provide even adequate care to the vulnerable and the dying.
The authors note that they found that up to 84% of those requiring palliative care are not receiving it, and called for “adequate pain management” to be regarded as a “basic human right.”
The report also recommends that the country switch from the current “disease or condition-specific care” to a more “person-centered care.” It emphasizes, for instance, that a person’s care be as close as possible to one’s own home and community.
The report also brought to light challenges faced by the country’s current health system, where the sick and the suffering are often plugged into a “bureaucratic system” where they become anonymous victims lost in a “multiple siloed heath system.”
The PCPCC report follows on the heels of the release of a report this week by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), which called for assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia to be “legally permitted.”
In the RSC report, the authors argue that human dignity is a “value whose meaning is obscure.”
Schadenberg pointed out that there is a “massive difference” between the two reports, calling them “direct opposites.”
“The RSC’s report is talking about giving doctors the right to cause someone’s death. The PCPCC report is talking about how to bring in a system of patient centred care throughout Canada which is locally focused and oriented to the person.”
“I think Canadians should be considering how we care for each other over how we kill each other.”
Despite the fundamental differences between the RSC and PCPCC reports, both emphasize that Canada does not provide adequate access to high quality palliative care, something Schadenberg agrees with.
“There are areas where we are absolutely not providing proper care for Canadians right now and we can improve on things significantly,” he said. But, he added, “There is no use considering or even discussing the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide without these measure being done first.”
“The first question should be, how do we improve palliative care and make sure that it is done in a most effective way for Canadians?”
In drafting their report the PCPCC report authors were informed in part by an open letter sent to the committee in 2010 by world-renowned Canadian humanitarian Jean Vanier.
In that letter Vanier had urged the PCPCC to realize that someone’s “physical impairments [and] cry of need for relationship” invites one to “reflect” on one’s own “impairments, fear of openness and need for relationship.”
“In our states of dependence, our need cries out for attention and care. If this need is well received, it calls forth the powers of love in others, and creates unity around us, the gifts of the vulnerable to our world. If our cry and our need are unmet, we remain alone and in anguish.”
“The danger in our [Canadian] culture of productivity and achievement is that we easily dismiss and ignore as unproductive the gifts and the beauty of our most vulnerable members, and we do so at our own peril, dehumanizing ourselves,” he said.