Monday, November 15, 2010

Compassionate Care

Jean Echlin, the past VP of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and a former executive director of the Hospice of Windsor, sent in an article that was published in the Windsor Star concerning the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care.

The article is reprinted below:

Compassionate Care

Jean Echlin, Special to The Windsor Star - November 13, 2010

In April 2010, a new federal parliamentary group was formed. This followed the stunning defeat of Bill C-384, which sought to change Canada's Criminal Code to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Thanks to the vision of some members of Parliament who voted against the bill, a non-partisan, multi-party group called "the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care (PCPCC) began deliberations.

The Committee is co-chaired by Windsor-Tecumseh MP Joe Comartin (NDP) and NDP Justice Critic; Scarborough Southwest MP Michelle Simson (Lib); Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht (CPC); founding members, MP Frank Valeriote; MP Kelly Block; and more than 50 MP members, with varying degrees of involvement.

A four-pronged approach developed by PCPCC includes: promotion of the need for palliative care for all Canadians facing end-of-life issues such as pain and symptom management; implications of an on-going mental health crisis and suicide prevention; elder abuse, including lack of compassionate care; and issues encountered by persons with disabilities.

Broad consultations are taking place in every region of Canada concerning present levels of care available to an ageing society and a critical nationwide shortage of expertise and resources in the field of palliative, hospice, home-care and mental health.

As a member of the Advisory Council of The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research's, Toronto, I attended the PCPCC's hearing, in the West Block of the federal Parliament Buildings on October 19.

The deVeber Institute's submission "Proposal for Integrated Palliative Care" was addressed by Dr. L.L. (Barrie) deVeber, founding director of The Institute and myself. The paper points out the need for education in palliative, end-of-life care for all healthcare providers and earlier patient referrals to palliative care specialists.

The existence of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care brings attention to the complex and multi-faceted needs of many Canadians facing the issues and often the chaos associated with acute and chronic pain, debilitating and late stage illness.

Many programs involved with hospice palliative care and pain management exist in Canada, however are accessible to only a small percentage of the population needing these services.

The utilization and effectiveness of these programs make it abundantly clear that there is no need for Canadians to spend much of their lives immobilized by chronic pain or to die in pain, loneliness, anxiety and bereft of dignity. We must keep pushing for appropriate, knowledgeable and compassionate care regardless of a person's diagnosis, (physical or mental illness), age, gender, culture or religious persuasion.

Personally, I am in awe of the enormity of work this parliamentary committee has undertaken. Their commitment to this effort in addition to their parliamentary and constituency workloads is highly commendable. Further, these parliamentarians are showing exemplary non-partisan collaboration in addressing these fundamental issues. It is hoped that this Committee will be a model for future governmental cross-party endeavours.

A favourite proverb: "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act."

Jean Echlin lives in Windsor and is an independent nurse consultant in palliative care and gerontology.

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