Canadians Urged to Talk About Hospice Palliative Care First

Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association and Canadian Society for Palliative Care Physicians urge Canadians to Talk About Hospice Palliative Care First

(June 13, 2013) Ottawa, ON – Yesterday in the Quebec National Assembly, the Dying with Dignity Bill 52 was tabled by the Minister for Social Services and Youth Protection Véronique Hivon. Although the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association (CHPCA) and the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) applaud the commitment to improve and implement hospice palliative care standards across Quebec, they believe that Canadians need to ensure that there is universal access to quality hospice palliative care before any introduction of medical aid in dying, more commonly referred to as euthanasia.

“Currently, only 16-30 per cent of Canadians, have access to comprehensive quality end-of-life care.  We should focus on improving end of life care across the country before we introduce bills allowing physician assisted dying.” stated Sharon Baxter, Executive Director of the CHPCA.  “The goal of hospice palliative care is to improve the quality of life for patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illness, and intends to neither hasten nor postpone death.”

 The CHPCA and the CSPCP believe that hospice palliative care is about ensuring a good death for all Canadians through an interdisciplinary approach that includes pain and symptom management, psychological support, spiritual care, bereavement care, and much more to address the suffering of patients and their families.

“A recent survey of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) showed that an overwhelming majority of CSPCP physicians were opposed to the legalization of euthanasia (88 per cent).  Ninety per cent of responding members would not be willing to participate in the act of euthanasia,” added Dr. Doris Barwich, President of the CSPCP.  “The dedicated and committed physicians who work in hospice palliative care should not be expected to participate in this practice.”

Furthermore, the CHPCA and the CSPCP would like to distinguish the difference between palliative sedation therapy and the proposed “terminal palliative sedation,” where the intent is to cause death.   Published standards define “palliative sedation therapy” as the practice of relieving intolerable suffering through the intentional lowering of a patient’s level of consciousness in the last days of life by the proportional and monitored use of non-opioid sedative medications[i]. “Palliative sedation therapy” does not prolong dying or hasten death but addresses refractory suffering. To learn more about this terminology please consult:

The CHPCA and the CSPCP want to ensure that all Canadians have the highest quality of life as they live with a life limiting or terminal illness. All Canadians have a right to high quality hospice palliative care.

As Canada enters the debate around these contentious issues, we want to reassure Canadians that effective therapies exist to manage symptoms and address fears related to the dying process. Physicians and hospice palliative care providers are available to provide support and referral as necessary. Contact the CHPCA for a list of hospice palliative care resources in your area. You can also learn more about the definitions of key terms and the debate through the “Let’s Talk About Hospice Palliative Care First” campaign at:

For further information, please contact:

Vanessa Sherry
Communications Officer
Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 613-241-3663 ext: 229

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association  is the national voice for hospice palliative care in Canada. We are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in care for persons approaching death so that the burdens of suffering, loneliness and grief are lessened. The CHPCA operates in close partnership with other national organizations and continues to work to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of where they may live, have equal access to quality hospice palliative care services for themselves and their family.

The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) was formed with the vision of promoting the highest quality of palliative and end-of-life care by physicians in Canada.  The Society strives to advance quality of life of Canadians and their families who are living with a life-threatening illness, by advancing the field of Palliative Medicine and representing our discipline at local, provincial, and national levels.  Members include medical practitioners with an interest or specialized practice in Palliative Medicine.

[i] Fraser Health. Refractory Symptoms and Palliative Sedation Therapy Guideline. 2011; p. 2.