Canadian Palliative Care Framework Proposed

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada's minister of Health, said more must be done to improve care and equitable access "so that every Canadian has the best possible quality of life right up to the end of their lives."

Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada's minister of Health, submitted a Framework on Palliative Care in Canada to the country's Parliament on Dec. 4. The framework will help support improved access to palliative care, according to her ministry, by providing a useful reference point for governments, stakeholders, caregivers, and communities to help identify common directions and opportunities, address gaps, and share best practices.

"Many Canadians find it difficult to discuss death, dying, and end-of-life care with their loved ones and health care providers," Taylor said. "We tend to avoid these conversations out of fear and pain. Yet these topics are important to the well-being of dying people and their families. Encouraging Canadians to have honest and informed conversations about death and end-of-life planning can alleviate stress, anxiety, and help to ensure that Canadians have the death that they wish."

According to the document, 90 percent of the more than 270,000 Canadians who die each year die of chronic illness, such as cancer, heart disease, organ failure, dementia, or frailty. By 2026, the number of deaths is projected to increase to 330,000, and to 425,000 by 2036. Despite Canadians' wishes to die at home, 60 percent die in hospitals.

Taylor said more must be done to improve care and equitable access "so that every Canadian has the best possible quality of life right up to the end of their lives."

The framework was created in response to an act that took effect Dec. 12, 2017, and required the government of Canada to develop a framework designed to support improved access to palliative care in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, as well as palliative care providers.The government has committed targeted funding of $6 billion in a 10-year period to provinces and territories to improve access to home and community care, including palliative care, and has allocated an additional $184.6 million in the next five years to improve home and palliative care for Indigenous communities.

In Part I, the framework provides an overview of palliative care, setting out the World Health Organization's definition in the Canadian context. The Framework describes how palliative care is provided in Canada, the roles and responsibilities of the individuals and organizations involved, and lays out the purpose of the framework. Part II sets out the collective vision for palliative care in Canada: that all Canadians with life-limiting illnesses live well until the end of life. Part III outlines implementation and next steps.

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