The Corner

Health Care

In Canada, Euthanasia Yes — Palliative Care, Not so Much

Canada has created a positive right to euthanasia — including coercing dissenting doctors into participating in the deed in Ontario. Yet, according to a study published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, only 15 percent of dying Canadians have access to quality palliative care in their last year of life. But that dry statistic doesn’t reveal the true depth of the problem, according to Globe and Mail columnist, André Picard:

The numbers, as appalling as they are, don’t adequately convey how badly dying patients are treated by the failure to provide palliative care in the community.

They are, in dry academic language, “subject to multiple transitions of care.” That means very sick patients are shuffled – often repeatedly – from home/nursing home to emergency, then up to the ward, and back home again.

We all know that in Canada, an ER visit for a frail elderly person (the main clientele for palliative care) means lying on a gurney in a hallway for hours. That is the last place a dying person – often confused, incontinent and in pain – should be. This kind of humiliation is untenable and we should be ashamed at how commonplace it is.

Good grief! No wonder so many Canadians seem to be embracing euthanasia. They are being herded by poor-quality care into that awful choice — which in a single-payer system, not coincidentally, is also far less expensive.

The legalization of euthanasia didn’t cause this problem. But I suspect that its widespread availability will make it much more difficult to correct.

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