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The total pain of dying

Is euthanasia a form of medical care?

by Louisa Blair

9_ICU_IV_1 wikimedia commons CalleamanecerEver since industrialization brought about urban living and the breakup of extended families, increasing numbers of Quebecers have been dying in hospitals and alone, instead of at home and surrounded by their families. Let us consider a few numbers:

  • More than a third of Quebecers now live alone, compared to 12 per cent in the early 1970s.
  • In 15 years, 26 per cent of Quebec’s population will be over 65, compared to 16 per cent in 2012, so there will be a lot more dying going on soon.
  • Depending on the region, 40 to 80 per cent of those who need palliative care do not currently receive it.
  • There are 110 fewer palliative care beds in Quebec than the government-regulated ratio of 1 per 10,000 population requires.
  • •      Although 75 per cent of Quebecers would prefer to die at home than in an institution, only 10 per cent do die at home (the lowest proportion in Canada).1

As these numbers show, the question of how we die has now become, both technically and morally speaking, an urgent one. Bill 52, an Act Respecting End of Life Care, was a response to this emergency. The introduction to the bill states that its purpose is to “ensure that end-of-life patients are provided care that is respectful of their dignity and their autonomy.” But in addition to talking about the right to palliative care, the bill included medical aid in dying as one of the forms of respectful end-of-life care Quebecers would be offered. Another term that appeared was terminal palliative sedation (a slower form of euthanasia than lethal injection).

The Quebec Palliative Care Association asked

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About the Author

Louisa Blair
Louisa Blair is a Quebec City writer and translator and a former associate editor of Compass: A Jesuit Journal and columnist for Catholic New Times.

One Comment

  1. LMSantarossa

    Terrific article on a very important conversation. It lays bare the “elephant in the room” in a very clear way – death. We will all face it, but how? It also makes a case, I think, for not using the debate on whether or not to permit physician-assisted death to ignore the need for a real nationwide policy and action on palliative care.

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