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The Emerging Framework on Palliative Care in Canada, Bill C-277

What you need to know

Bill C-277, Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act

Amendments to the Criminal Code where made last year, following the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Carter v. Canada. This amendment allowed citizens to apply for medical assistance in dying and allowed physicians and nurse practitioners to assist patients, who met strict criteria, to end their life. The Supreme Court believes, by not allowing this amendment it would breach upon a patient’s human rights.

Since Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID), became legal in Canada there has been an estimated 2,500 patients who have consented to this treatment plan. While this law remains controversial in some circles, based on personal choice or religious belief, the Canadian Government passed a Private Members Bill in December 2017 entitled the Palliative Care in Canada Act. The goal of this act is to develop a framework to access enhanced palliative care in both the hospital and community settings. This act provides a 12-month period to produce a report and present it to the House of Parliament. In preparation of this report the government sort input from a number of groups, exanimating ideas from the following topics:

  • Definition of palliative care

  • Advance care planning

  • Person and family-centred care

  • Challenges facing people living with a life-threatening illness

  • Consistent access to palliative care

  • Special populations (i.e., Indigenous, infants, children and youth, homeless, rural and remote communities, LGBTQ2, people living with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and others)

  • Health care provider education, training and supports

  • Caregiver training and supports

  • Community engagement

  • Bereavement

Submissions from these groups on the topics listed about were due July 13, 2018. Taking such a holistic view of palliative care may expand the scope of MAID, as well as, start families having conversations about this subject much earlier than what is currently being done. A patient having a voice on their right to choose when the time comes is not only vital but takes the burden off distressed family members who sit at the bedside. As in Ontario, if the patient is unable to express their wishes then the next of kin has to choose for the patient, as the doctor is not allowed to do this for the next of kin. The doctor and the rest of the health professional team can only advise and educate the family. Having to choose in the moment of critical illness can lead to additional stress and anxiety for all involved.

Healthcare has many different avenues, but two main roads. It is the healthcare professional’s responsibility to ensure the patient is fully informed of all the facts and options, and it is the patient’s responsibility to be proactive with their options and not shy away from their illness.

Make sure you discuss your health with your health professional team and your rights with your legal representative.

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