|Dr Harvey Chochinov|
Less than a third of the 250,000 Canadians who die each year have access to good palliative care, says Dr. Harvey Chochinov, a Winnipeg-based researcher on end-of-life treatment.
“There have been several special Senate reports on death and dying in Canada and the best estimates we have are that somewhere between 15 and 30 per cent of Canadians near the end of life will have access to quality, comprehensive palliative care, which is a rather shocking disclosure,” Chochinov said in a telephone interview Friday.
While palliative care — in which patients are kept comfortable, clean and pain free — is a growing part of the public conversation about death, Chochinov says Canada lacks national guidelines for the humane treatment of a dying person.
Instead, he says, the very notion of dying with dignity has been “hijacked” by the right-to-die movement.
“I think we’re going entirely in the wrong direction by saying the way to deal with our inadequacies in end-of-life care is by a euthanasia policy. I think we need to do something much more constructive, such as giving doctors good training in pain management.”Even where doctor-assisted death is legal, a small fraction of the population requests it, he notes.
Dr. Harvey Chochinov is a Winnipeg-based psychiatrist and researcher who holds the Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care.