Canada’s Supreme Court allows doctor-assisted dying

Categories: Care.

This decision overturns a ban enacted in since 1993.

Pro-euthanasia groups have applauded the decision, opponents have spoken out against it, while others  welcome the chance to debate the issue “in a real way”.

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association issued a policy alert to its members ahead of the decision, maintaining that no matter the result of the ruling, the priority remains improving access to high quality palliative care for all who need it.

CHPCA noted the following:

  • most Canadians are not being referred to hospice palliative care in a timely fashion – the support for living well until dying can be greatly increased.
  • the decision will have complex and confounding implications for end of life care in Canada
  • as a hospice palliative care organization the CHPCA knows that the health care system continues to underutilize and under-deliver palliative services, the first option for patients with terminal or life-threatening conditions
  • improving access to hospice palliative care in any setting where someone may die must remain a public policy priority
  • hospice palliative care and healthcare professionals must have the option to not participate in assisted suicide
  • the decision on assisted suicide is no excuse to stop or slow important progress required in improving access to palliative care across Canada.

The Quality End of Life Care Coalition of Canada Blueprint for Action has made the following four recommendations:

  1. better access to tertiary care, hospice palliative care and a palliative approach in primary care
  2. caregiver support, including grief and bereavement
  3. education, training and research to support all healthcare providers to provide a palliative care to patients with life-limiting illnesses
  4. advance care planning for all Canadians and tools to help healthcare providers initiate conversations about wishes, hopes, and goals of care.

Read today’s World hospice and palliative care news roundup for press coverage of the ruling.

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