Faith leaders unite in call for palliative care

Bishop Noel Simard joined representatives of the Evangeli9cal Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths June 14 to call for a national palliative care strategy.

CCN PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

Bishop Noel Simard joined representatives of the Evangeli9cal Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths June 14 to call for a national palliative care strategy.

June 27, 2016
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Quality, widely accessible palliative care is one of Canada's greatest needs, says Bishop Noël Simard of Valleyfield, Que.

Simard, representing the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, was among the Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders who issued a call June 14 for a well-funded, quality national palliative care strategy.

The interfaith leaders made the pitch as the assisted suicide Bill C-14 was headed to third reading in the Senate before being sent back to the House of Commons.

"Faith communities, along with health care workers, have for centuries stood by the bedsides of the dying to comfort and protect, to heal and console," Simard said.

"Today, as faith leaders, we recommit ourselves to this sacred task of providing the spiritual care so essential to palliative care."

Simard said the use of language such as "medical aid in dying" to refer to Bill C-14 or the euthanasia law in Quebec creates confusion.

Such terminology sounds similar to palliative care which seeks to alleviate the physical suffering and accompanuies the patient while attending to their psycho-social and spiritual needs, he said. Palliative care views the person as the subject of his or her life who is worthy of compassion.

A person is a subject, Simard said. "It is a subject who suffers."

The words "euthanasia" and "assisted suicide" should be used because they eliminate the person in order to eliminate suffering, he said.

"Palliative care alleviates the suffering of those nearing the end of life, yet, lamentably, it is not accessible to everyone," said Julia Beazley, of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. "As faith communities and as Canadians, we must commit to making high-quality palliative care available to all."

FIVE STEPS

Beazley outlined the five steps of the Interfaith Statement on Health Care to improve access to quality palliative care:

Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said, "In light of Canada's aging population, there is a pressing need to improve access to high-quality palliative care, which can make a world of difference in the well-being of patients - and their families - in the final stages of life."

According to Imam Sikander of the Canadian Council of Imams, "We must ensure that the ill and dying are not left out of our care and compassion. Every life is worth living and saving."

POOR ACCESS

The Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association estimates only 15 to 30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care, although 96 per cent of them support it.

As well, families pay about 25 per cent of the costs, putting a financial burden on those caring for the terminally ill.

The association says palliative care would save the health care system between $7,000 and $8,000 per person at end of life and warned of the coming demographic crunch as the proportion of seniors increases.