It is quite amazing to consider how far we have come in the development of caring for patients with terminal illness in the last several decades. Palliative and hospice care began to develop quite rapidly in the 1960s with the work of Dame Cicely Saunders, followed by that of Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Today, the tenets of palliative care are reflected in numerous medical specialties, and its importance is increasingly recognized by the majority of policy makers, stakeholders and international medical organizations.
Needless to say, there remain significant gaps in the provision of end-of-life services across Canada, and with our aging population, it is likely that those needs will only increase. Nonetheless, I invite you to take a look at the following piece. It is an editorial that appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) 100 years ago titled, The Tragedy of Old Age. The piece is a reminder that we continue to live in a death-denying society and of the struggle that has ensued over time to die with dignity. It is worth mentioning that this editorial was written well before the creation of the word “palliative.”
Despite the many challenges that are faced by the specialty of palliative care, we continue to focus on improving the training of healthcare providers, the development of a national palliative care policy, and palliative research. Care of the dying has evolved over the past 100 years to become an essential part of our healthcare system and as is evident in the attached article, it must continue to be supported to become more accessible to all people.