Physician Assisted Suicide – CHPCA statement

Physician Assisted Suicide – CHPCA statement

Life & Death Matters Post

THe recent decision by the BC courts to strike down the ban on PAS has brought the topic to the forefront again.

The last time I wrote about Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) I was a student and the paper was thirty pages long.  (Bless the prof who had to read it!)

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association provides an excellent statement on their position, which is well worth the read! I have included it here, and the link to the website. In future posts I will discuss this from a more personal perspective, and will identify key issues that might be of interest to students.

Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) clarifies it’s position on the subject:

“Whether you agree with euthanasia and assisted suicide or are entirely against it, there are some key messages and things that we know regardless of opinion.

Key Messages:

The recent preoccupation with euthanasia and assisted suicide is taking time away from the issue of access to hospice palliative and end-of-life care for all Canadians.

That euthanasia and assisted suicide is not and never will be a part of hospice palliative care.

The Norms of Practice (2002) define hospice palliative care as care that aims to relieve suffering and improve the quality of living and dying.

Hospice palliative care providers have observed – and these observations are confirmed by research evidence – that the desire for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide usually stems from one or more of the following factors:

  • a desire not to be a burden on others;
  • the individual’s need for control over the illness and his or her body/life;
  • depression and psychological distress often associated with illness;
  • the pain and suffering caused by all terminal illnesses.

Comprehensive hospice palliative care can help alleviate many of the factors that may cause people to consider physician-assisted suicide, particularly the burden on loved ones, depression and pain and symptom management.

Canadians are confused between euthanasia; assisted suicide; do not resuscitate; sedation; the right to refuse treatment; the right to refuse hydration; the right to refuse nutrition and many other terms and instead appear to lump them all together.

In the hospice palliative care experience, the process of dying has meaning and purport for the person as well as his or her loved ones. As a field of practice, we have the responsibility to ensure that all those involved in providing hospices palliative care have the knowledge (including an understanding of the alternatives to physician-assisted suicide), attitude and skills to help people at end-of-life manage both physical and emotional suffering, and to support family members. We also have a responsibility to ensure that patients seeking physician-assisted suicide are aware of other options.

2 Responses

  1. I appreciate Kath’s commentary on the recent decision. Your information helps to educate us about the context of the subject of physician-assisted suicide. I agree that everyone should have access to hospice palliative care and to become fully informed before considering decisions including physician assisted suicide. I will share it with board members this evening at our monthly meeting. Penny

    1. Penny,
      Thanks so much for your note. I wish you well as you continue to integrate a palliative approach in the care of your residents. Your team is diligent in striving to provide excellent care from admission through to death (for residents and for family). I also appreciate how you reach out to the larger hospice community for consultation and education. In this way, you strive to ensure that your residents have access to hospice palliative care, even though they are not living in a designated “hospice” unit.

      have opened to people dying with non cancer illnesses, the many chronic illnesses, including dementia. As hospice palliative care in Canada reaches out to those dying with chronic illness, including dementia, embraces the needs of those dying with

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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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