Doctors fear Quebecers forced to choose between assisted death or palliative care
Facing a lack of palliative care options, doctors say some Quebec medical patients are being forced to opt for doctor-assisted suicide.
Since Quebec’s medical aid in dying law came into effect in 2016, doctors and workers say that access to palliative care has gone down, while patient requests for medical aid to end their lives have increased steadily.
“The issue of medical aid in dying is available to 100 per cent of the population and palliative care the resources are only available to 30 per cent of the population,” said Teresa Dellar, Director of the West Island Palliative Care Residence.
The Kirkland home has 23 beds, with physicians, nurses, and counsellors on site. However, just a third of its funding comes from the government, with the rest raised by the community.
Doctors say that the lack of funding is forcing patients to seek medical help to end their lives.
They claim there has been little communication with the provincial government on the issue.
“We were promised there would be a plan for palliative care in Quebec and the commission asked for 5 years to develop this plan,” Dr. Laurence Normand-Rivest said.
“We're in 2018 and for now, there's no data that is publically accessible to the access of palliative care and no plan of intervention to serve the population. “
Since the legislation was passed two years ago, fewer doctors are entering the field.
Quebec’s College of Physicians has gotten involved, writing a letter to Health Minister Gaetan Barrette asking for more funds.
“People are feeling a burden, financial stress, psychological stress and lack of autonomy,” said Dr. Paul Saba, a family physician.
“So what we want is to give people is…care and support.”
Lisa D’Amico knows firsthand the struggles of those considering the choice of medical aid in dying.
Born with cerebral palsy and living on welfare, the only option for her chronic pain is medication.
The other options are just too costly.
“I don't have access to physiotherapy or hydrotherapy to handle the pain,” she said.
According to the health ministry, over 24,000 Quebecers are expected to use palliative care services this year.