Palliative Care alleviates suffering and offers care
for those who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and those who are at the end of life. It manages pain and symptoms, and offers psychosocial, spiritual and physical support for those who are ill and their caregivers.
God calls us to care for the vulnerable
, including those who are ill or near the end of life. The EFC supports palliative care as a compassionate response that supports and cares for those who are suffering or terminally ill.
All human life is precious
. Life is a gift from God for us to respect and protect through all its stages. Each person’s life has worth, regardless of their age or ability, because they are made in the image of God and loved by Him.
Current legislation on euthanasia and assisted suicide (passed in 2016) requires a palliative care consultation for anyone who requests assisted death.
The Health Minister tabled a Palliative Care Framework in Parliament in December 2018. As part of this Framework, Health Canada will open an Office of Palliative Care to improve coordination of activities at different levels. The EFC’s brief to Health Canada in July 2018 had asked for a definition of palliative care that did not include hastening death, and we are pleased that the framework’s definition reflects that.
This new framework came about because of Bill C-277, a private member’s bill by MP Marilyn Gladu that was passed into law in December 2017. It required the federal Minister of Health, in consultation with the provinces, to develop a palliative care framework. Our EFC webpage about the bill includes a link to the EFC's submission on it in March 2017.
MP Charlie Angus’s private member’s Motion M-46 called on the government to enhance the quality and availability of palliative care in Canada.
The EFC recently released a free Palliative Care Toolkit, a new booklet of articles and discussion questions that can help you and your church understand what is going on with end-of-life care today, why it matters, and how we can respond as Christians.
The EFC also made a 5-page submission in May 2020 to recommend maintaining the distinction between palliative care and euthanasia, and recommending conscience protection for workers and institutions.
Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life and addresses suffering in all areas of life. It is multidisciplinary care that can manage pain and symptoms, and offers psychosocial, spiritual and physical support for the patient and their caregivers. You can read a 2016 article from Faith Today
that explains more about it.
Only about 16-30% of Canadians who die have access to or receive high quality palliative care, according to estimates. Palliative care can be provided at a hospice, a hospital, a patient’s home or a long-term care facility.
Hospice palliative care programs are usually at least 50% funded by charitable donations, and families must also bear part of the cost of dying at home, in long‐term care – almost anywhere outside a hospital.*
According to the World Health Organization, palliative care:
- Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms;
- Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process;
- Intends neither to hasten nor postpone death;
- Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care;
- Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death;
- Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement;
- Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counselling, if indicated;
- Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness; and
- Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.**
Download the EFC's free Palliative Care Toolkit
, a new booklet of articles and discussion questions that can help you and your church understand what is going on with end-of-life care today, why it matters, and how we can respond as Christians.
Fear and despair often fuel a request for assisted death. Many people who are ill or at the end of life are concerned about being a burden and may be afraid of what lies ahead. The compassionate response is to support and encourage them, to provide high quality palliative care, not to end their lives.
God calls us to care for the vulnerable. To love our neighbour is the second greatest commandment, after loving God. Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that our neighbour is anyone who is in need.
In both the Old and New Testaments, the people of Israel and followers of Jesus were commanded to care for the foreigner, the widow, the orphan and the poor. Another parable tells us that when we serve the vulnerable in our society, we are serving Christ (Matthew 25:34-36).
We must care for those:
- Struggling to receive proper medical care
- In despair, believing that their lives aren’t worth living
- Afraid of losing capacity or afraid they may suffer
- Needing pain control or support
All human life is precious. Each person’s life has worth and dignity because we are created by God, made in his image and loved by him. A person’s life is valuable, regardless of their age or ability.
We are stewards of this life, but it belongs to God. As Christians, we believe God calls us to live the life He has given us. We do not need to accept medical treatment, but it is not for us to choose the timing of our death. Palliative care affirms life and considers dying a natural process. It does not hasten or postpone death.
Many faith traditions teach that there is meaning and purpose in supporting people at the end of life. As the Interfaith Statement on Palliative Care signed by the EFC states, “Visiting those who are sick, and caring for those who are dying, are core tenets of our respective faiths and reflect our shared values as Canadians.”
We must affirm human worth and dignity with compassion.