A son holds his mother's hands at a hospice care facility moments before her death from ovarian cancer in 2015. Wikimedia Commons

National palliative care strategy given green light

  • December 15, 2017
OTTAWA – The creation of a national palliative care strategy for Canada took a significant step forward on Dec. 12 when a private member’s bill became law.

MP Marilyn Gladu’s Bill C-277 calling for a national palliative care framework received royal assent after being passed unanimously by the Senate on third reading the previous day.

“The bill’s passage ensures that we can begin working with our provincial and territorial partners to create the necessary palliative care framework to give Canadians the type of end-of-life and near-end-of-life care that they deserve and want,” Gladu said in a release. 

The bill, called the “Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act,” was introduced to the House of Commons in May 2016. Although it is rare for a private member’s bill to become law, particularly bills from rookie MPs, Gladu’s bill went to the Senate after receiving unanimous support by Parliament.

 The new law calls for the development of a national framework to provide Canadians with access to palliative care through hospitals, home care, long-term care facilities and residential hospices. Currently, an estimated 70 per cent of Canadians have no access to palliative care.

With passage of the bill, consultations between Ottawa and the provinces must begin within six months, and the health minister must report back to Parliament within one year. The 2017 federal budget earmarked $6 billion over 10 years towards making home and palliative care more accessible to Canadians.

“This is great news,” said Peter Murphy, assistant director of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF).

“Increasing access to palliative care sends the message — upholds the truth — that  human life is of inestimable value. When death approaches, bringing with it pain and discomfort, we need to do everything we can to alleviate that pain and discomfort, but never at the cost of eliminating the sufferer.”

The bill was drafted by Gladu in response to the implementation of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada. Physician-assisted suicide cannot by truly voluntary without an option for proper palliative care, said the preamble to the bill.

“In my work on this vital piece of legislation, one thing has been clear to me: Canadians, when given the option, will choose to live as well as they can for as long as they can,” said the Conservative MP.

“Providing better palliative care service across Canada will strengthen our nation and improve conditions for millions of Canadians making important health care choices.”

In addition to all-party support in Parliament, about 100 health care organizations endorsed the bill, including the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians.

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