Palliative care centres say no to medically assisted death

The director of the West Island Palliative Care Residence says patients seeking assistance with dying will have to go elsewhere.

West Island Palliative Care Residence won't obey Quebec's 'dying with dignity' law

The director of a palliative care residence in Montreal says the facility won't offer medical aid in dying, despite Quebec's law. (Reuters)

The director of the West Island Palliative Care Residence says patients seeking assistance with dying will have to go elsewhere.

"We are absolutely one of the 29 [palliative care programs in Quebec] that are opting out of providing this service," says the residence's executive director, Theresa Dellar.

"The basic philosophy of palliative care is we do nothing to hasten death, and obviously euthanasia does hasten death. Our philosophy to provide comfort, care and dignity at the end of life and to allow for the natural process of death to take place," she said.

Dellar said patients at the palliative care residence who request medically assisted death will be transferred out to another facility where their wishes can be carried out, with no judgment, she told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Wednesday.

However, she said, there needs to be a stronger case made for palliative care in Quebec.

"When people's symptoms [and pain] are managed, and they're allowed to die in a dignified manner, they actually live quite well," Dellar said.

She said only a fraction of Quebecers have access to palliative care, but Quebec's new law on allowing for medical help in dying makes that option available to 100 per cent of Quebecers. 

"Right now only 16 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care, so how can they make that choice?" she said.

Euthanasia guide

On Tuesday, the Collège des médecins du Québec said it was preparing a step-by-step guide on how doctors should approach people asking for help in dying.

Dr. Yves Robert said the regulatory body has developed a guide that shows doctors how to end a patient's life with sequential injections of three medications: a sedative such as a benzodiazepine to relieve anxiety, a barbiturate or similar drug to induce a coma, and finally a neuromuscular block, which stops the heart and respiration.

The step-by-step instructions also tell doctors what dosages of the medications to use, where to inject the drugs and what to do should complications such as vomiting or an allergic reaction occur.

Robert said euthanasia kits will be prepared by pharmacists based on the physician's prescription. Each kit will contain enough drugs and injection equipment for two euthanasia procedures, in the event a backup set is needed. Doctors must return any unused medication to the pharmacy.


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