Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 21, 2010
Better palliative care can quell euthanasia debate
REGINA - Better provision of palliative care to the dying would go a long way to reduce the calls for legalized euthanasia, says the head of Regina Palliative Care.
"It's not so much what stance to take toward euthanasia, but what stance to take in providing people with palliative care," Jeff Christiansen said in a May 19 talk at Holy Trinity Church.
Christiansen identified two main forces behind the growing interest in euthanasia: the patients' rights movement and extended life expectancy in the developed world.
At the end of life, significant pain and suffering is usually the reality in the Western world, he said.
"The debate over euthanasia is a debate in the developed world," he observed. "We have the luxury of not having to deal with death every day."
There are four dominant factors that lead people to think of euthanasia as an alterative: pain and suffering, the desire not to be a burden, the need to have control over one's body, and the experience of depression and stress.
"In the absence of good palliative care, people will ask for something else," Christiansen said.
Good palliative care is life-affirming, healing-centred rather than disease-centred care, he said. Good palliative care changes the horizon of the death experience so that the person dying and their family and friends can look around.
Good spiritual care, he noted, enables people to see even beyond the horizon.
"The presence of Christ changes the nature of our living and our dying," Christiansen said. "The life and death of Christ changes the horizon of how we see life and death.
"We can choose to live as though death no longer has power over us."
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