“The savings in direct health care system costs are consistently reported to be around 30 per cent,” said the report, which summarizes recent peer-reviewed literature on palliative care economics.
“Palliative Care: A Vital Service With Clear Economic, Health and Social Benefits” has come out just three weeks after a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal claimed assisted suicide could reduce costs to public healthcare by between $34.7 million and $138.8 million annually.
The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians hopes its paper will spur action in Ottawa.
“We know, financially, health care is terribly expensive in Canada,” said society president Dr. David Henderson. “We thought it was really important to show that not only better care can be provided, but it can be done in a very cost-effective way.”
Though the studies completed so far can’t answer the question definitively, savings from universal access to fully-funded palliative care probably stack up against any savings that might come from assisted suicide, Henderson said.
The report says savings would come from, among other things, reducing hospital stays, moving patients from hospital to home or hospice care, and reducing unnecessary diagnostic testing.
“You’re talking about a lot longer period of time for those savings to occur,” said Henderson. “Even people who would choose MAID (Medical Assistance In Dying), generally they’re going to choose it pretty far down the line.”
The palliative economics study points out that “U.S. Medicare data shows that a quarter of total health care costs are spent in the last year of life, with about 40 per cent — or 10 per cent of the total Medicare budget — spent in the last four weeks.”
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