Hospice and palliative care advocates are speaking out as Parliament gets ready to continue its debate on a bill that would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide.
The second hour of debate for Bill C-384, a private member’s bill, is scheduled for Dec. 1, when a vote could also possibly be held.
Cheri Purpur, nurse manager with Red Deer Hospice Society, said if people understood what type of care people receive in a hospice, they likely wouldn’t look at euthanasia.
“It would seem the whole issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide is mis-focused. Not enough people know what kind of pain and symptom management is available to make those last weeks and days comfortable and less stressful,” Purpur said.
People assume the pain management available will not be enough, she said.
“It really isn’t the case. There is always something.”
The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, the Alzheimer Society of Canada and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association all want to refocus the debate on the right to have high quality care for all Canadians at the end of life.
Sarah Walker, executive director of Hospice Calgary and a Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association board member, said there are far more crucial issues like resources for palliative and hospice care.
“With all the changes occurring with Alberta Health Services, how are they addressing and fitting hospice, palliative care? What priority is that for them,” Walker asked.
“The discussion that is so important to have is how do all of us as individuals want to face and embrace the end of our lives. That’s the discussion we need to have.”
Red Deer Hospice, which opened in September 2005, has helped 186 clients and their families at its 10-bed facility in Anders.
The hospice, which provides end of life care, depends on fundraising and donations and must raise $700,000 of its annual $1.1-million budget.
It costs $285 a day to care for each resident. There is no fee to use the program and families are asked to donate as much as they can.
The hospice’s spring gala, set for March 11, is its biggest fundraiser of the year.
More government funding is needed, especially with the aging population, Purpur said.
Red Deer Hospice executive director Brenda Watts said support from Central Albertans has been “amazing.”
“They believe in hospice care because here we are and our facility is a wonderful facility,” Watts said.
But it’s a continuing challenge to educate the community.
“Even though we’ve been in Red Deer for four years, even people in our neighbourhood really don’t know what this facility is and we’re constantly educating the public as to who we are and what we do.”