“End-of-life care cannot just mean access to medical aid in dying”. In Quebec, in a letter sent on Tuesday to Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, the College of Physicians deplores the fact that access to palliative care for the people of Quebec is limited due to lack of funding. “Or else it’s more poorly organised in their region”, explains the President of the College of Physicians, Charles Bernard. Launched in 2015, the Palliative Care Development Plan “is generating mixed results”.
For Christiane Martel, President of the Quebec Society for Palliative Care, “when our patient tells us: ‘because I haven’t got enough help at home, because I’ve been taken to hospital, I’m going to request medical aid in dying’, doctors are uncomfortable”. And the College of Physicians regrets the fact that, “unable to receive this level of care, patients have no choice other than to request medical aid in dying to end their days with dignity”. Similarly, the College denounces the difference in treatment, depending on the intentions: “Patients who asked for medical aid in dying were given the priority in terms of available resources… to the detriment of other terminally ill patients”.
On the palliative care wards, there is a clear lack of resources whereas end-of-life legislation set out “to guarantee every person in Quebec access to quality palliative care”.
The minister’s office “wishes to qualify the presumptions made by the College of Physicians”. Nevertheless, disparities clearly exist and palliative care poses a real challenge for the health system.