Canadian palliative care centers can opt out of assisted suicide

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Palliative care

While Canadian parliament recently approved right-to-die legislation, legalizing the practice across the country, opposition from hospice and palliative care centers has not gone unnoticed.

Canada will now allow hospice and palliative care centers to opt-out of providing medical aid to die. 

The executive director of the West Island Centre for Palliative Care told the Montreal Gazette that it makes “perfect sense for a palliative care unit, and its staff, to question the concept of assisted dying because it flouts the accepted World Health Organization definition of palliative care, which is never to hasten death.”

The exemption certainly makes sense, as hospice care facilities are trained and prepared to improve end of life care for patients. Their goal is to make patients and their families as comfortable as possible during the most difficult times of their lives.

While the palliative care staff person is not against the new law, she believes that it would be best “once 100 per cent of Quebecers have access to palliative care.” That number currently stands at 16 to 30 percent. 

We could not agree more with her assessment and believe it applies just as well to Maryland. Many patients and their families have had positive experience with palliative care specialists, who provide a multidisciplinary approach to end of life care that manages physical, psychological and spiritual needs during while dealing with an illness. These care providers would much rather help patients and their families through this difficult time, rather than hasten it via assisted suicide.

Offering assisted suicide drugs, without palliative care options readily available, backs suffering patients into a corner. Maryland should be doing everything it can to increase access to palliative care before considering something as final as assisted suicide.  

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