News & Events
Apr 28, 2017
Towards a comprehensive Pan-Canadian palliative care strategy
Interfaith Leaders Speak about the Dignity and Sacredness of the End of Life; A round table conversation with Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Cardinal Thomas Collins and Imam Dr. Abdul Hai Patel, hosted by Fr. Thomas Rosica CSB of Salt + Light Television.
How a country cares for its most vulnerable reflects our national values and priorities. Those approaching the final stage of life are, unquestionably, among our most vulnerable. While much of the conversation around end-of-life issues in Canada has focused on what is often referred to as “Medical Assistance in Dying”, far too little attention has been paid to palliative care, an indispensable part of our health care system that should be available to every patient who desires it.
In this round table discussion, religious leaders from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths come together to discuss boldly and courageously the challenges that each religious community faces in responding to new Canadian legislation on end of life issues. Meaningful dialogue requires a shared vocabulary, but corruption of language has been a characteristic of the inexorable movement toward medically assisted death. Initially, the term “mercy killing” was used; to recognizing that this was the intentional ending of life, but justifying it by merciful motivation. That language was rapidly replaced by the “right to die”, meaning the right to control the circumstances of death. Assisted death now becomes “medical aid in dying.” This is a distortion of meaning. Authentic medical aid in the process of dying is precisely what good medical and nursing care have done for centuries. It is what hospice and palliative care provide in contemporary health care.
The Canadian government has not responded to the urgent need for a pan-Canadian palliative and end-of-life care strategy. The faith traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam instruct that there is meaning in supporting people at the end of life. 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. Compassion is a foundational element of Canadian identity, and it is therefore incumbent on elected officials at all levels of government to support a robust, well-resourced, national palliative care strategy.