Friday, November 18, 2011

Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care offers great hope to Canadians.

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition 

A great gift was given to Canada yesterday. The Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care was released yesterday in Ottawa. The report titled: Not to be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians, focusses on improving palliative care for all Canadians, suicide prevention strategies and protecting people from elder abuse.

The Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care is an all-party committee that grew out of a common goal of identifying concrete ways to improve the care and protection for all Canadians when they are experiencing difficult circumstances.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) stated in our media release that we endorsed the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care. Our legal counsel, Hugh Scher, stated:
"Implementation of the recommendations of this Parliamentary report should eliminate any further call for legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia in Canada by vastly improving care for every Canadian, especially those who are vulnerable."
At the press conference, in Ottawa, for the release of the report, Joe Comartin (NDP) - Windsor Riverside, Harold Albrecht (CPC) - Kitchener Conestoga, and Frank Valeriote (Lib) - Guelph, spoke on the different areas within the report.

Joe Comartin
Joe Comartin spoke on the palliative care recommendations in the report. He stated that only 16 - 30% of Canadians have access to palliative care. Palliative care services are a patch-work quilt with varying levels of care within every region. Even within Toronto there are regional disparities of access to palliative care.

Joe Comartin emphasized the need for: 

* a new palliative care secretariet, 
* the need to improve chronic care for people who live with pain and 
* he emphasized the need for greater flexibility in the provision of compassionate care benefits,
* the importance of building a greater infrastructure of local palliative care services to enable people to receive care and support in their own communities.

Harold Albrecht
Harold Albrecht spoke about the suicide prevention section within the report. He explained how suicide is almost always preventable but that the resources, information and support is simply not available in Canada. Canada does not have a national suicide prevention strategy, even though the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention has developed a national strategy for suicide prevention, the resources to implement the strategy have not been provided.

Harold Albrecht emphasized that * a coordinating body would be required to implement a National Suicide Prevention Strategy.

Frank Valeriote spoke on the recommendations related to elder abuse. He spoke about the fact that 4 - 10% of elders experience abuse and some recent studies are suggesting that the rate of elder abuse may be as high as 20%. Most elder abuse is carried out by care-givers, family members and friends. The reason elder abuse remains under-reported is the fact that the person is often dependent on the abuser.

Frank Valeriote
Frank Valeriote emphasized the need for * an elder abuse awareness and prevention office, * an elder abuse prevention strategy that would focus on prevention and intervention.

Rene Ouimet from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) spoke next about the progress that is being made towards implementing a  suicide prevention blueprint. She stated that CASP supports the recommendations in the report.

Dan Demers from the Canadian Cancer Society stated that they supported the recommendations within the report. He spoke about how some patients are still suffering needlessly. He emphasized that people, at the end of life, are vulnerable and must not be abandoned. He decried the fact that less than 30% of Canadians have access to excellent palliative care.

Jean Guy St. Gelais from the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse spoke next. He supported the need for an elder abuse prevention strategy and thanked the committee for the report.

Dr John Haggie
The final speaker was Dr John Haggie who is the current President of the Canadian Medical Association. He stated that the improvement in palliative care required urgent attention. He spoke in favour of the emphasis on patient centred care that the report promotes. He suggested that fixing palliative care can be used as a model for transforming health care in Canada.

The media then asked a series of questions.

The first question concerned the fact that many of the areas that the report was concerned with were within provincial jurisdiction. Joe Comartin answered the question by emphasizing the importance of the report being implemented by all levels of government. He then emphasized how some of the recommendations would lead to significant cost savings. He stated that too many people were dying in acute care hospital settings. If there were palliative care placements available, the cost would be significantly less. He also stated that excellent pain management will provide significant savings for the economy. Frank Valeriote then emphasized the need to share information especially to serve the needs of minority communities.

The second question concerned the decriminalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Dr Haggie, the President of the CMA stepped forward and stated that euthanasia is a complex issue but access to good palliative care would change the euthanasia debate. Dr Haggie then stated:

"requests for euthanasia usually reflect a failure to access adequate palliative care." 
Dr. Haggie then stated that Canada needs a national palliative care strategy. We need to transform the medical system with best practises and we need innovation funds to improve care.

The next question concerned the national suicide prevention stragegy. Harold Albrecht spoke about the fact that CASP has developed a blueprint strategy and he stated that government leadership is needed. He then mentioned his private suicide prevention members bill that is before parliament.

It was then stated that the blueprint strategy that was developed by CASP has been implemented in other countries resulting in the lowering of suicide rates in their countries.

Harold Albrecht then mentioned how progress is already occurring. The #10 recommendation in the palliative care section of the report has already been inserted in the current government budget.

EPC would like to thank the 55 MP's who supported the Palliative and Compassionate Care committee. We would like to thank Michele Simson, who was the Liberal co-chair of the committee but was defeated in the last election. We would like to thank George for writing the report.


Helm Hammerhand said...

Hello, Alex. This is heartening. Once assisted suicide is accepted then care for the dying falls by the wayside.


Carolyn Budd-Goertzen said...

Hi Alex

This is cause for rejoicing as it also gives something for the court cases to use. Bravo to Parliament and keeping compassion alive in Canada! Please post for all of us the addresses for these people that spoke up for the elderly--then we can write and thank them directly.