Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Death with dignity is likely and possible: Death, Dying and Canadian Families

Death With Dignity

Death, Dying and 

Canadian Families

The phrase has been hijacked by those determined to change Canadian legislation to allow physician-assisted suicide. There is a difference between the two. Dr. Donald Low's video, which has been widely celebrated in the community, indicates that he was unable to accept help with his activities of daily living (ADLs), and was disinclined to be a care recipient. Many of my clients face death with dignity, with all of the supports that are in place to make this so. Counseling is very important and available to Ontarians through CCAC.

Most of us die in dignity, peacefully. Yes, there are barriers to a good death. Many die in hospital, but there is nothing wrong with this situation for many. Some family members cannot cope at home, and a hospital is the best place for them. Nurses are available, as well as doctors, to alleviate pain, and provide appropriate palliative care. Caregiver burnout and stress can be a terrible thing. For those who have never changed an adult brief, administered an enema, or assisted a spouse or parent, it can be daunting.
A new report from The Vanier Institute (Death, Dying and Canadian Families)
covers a lot of bases, and report some of the issues we already know, but provides little in the way of changes, legislation, or alternatives.

There are many barriers to a good death, but if everyone, all stakeholders, did their job, we would not have these media reports. If we all stood up and took responsibility, supported the care recipient and the care provider, made house calls, found enough regulated home support workers, found enough nurses, provided adequate assistance, death with dignity would be unreported, and physician-assisted suicide would be largely unnecessary.


  • Treat depression in seniors
  • Treat those with psychological issues around life-limiting illnesses
  • Find volunteers to provide friendly visiting
  • More access to mental health service providers
  • Manage chronic pain - each LHIN and CCAC region has a nurse specialist
  • Hold doctors accountable: mental health issues are as important as physical health.

What does a palliative patient need to know?

How to accept help. There is much giving in acceptance.
That there is no shame in being helpless.
There are many who will assist you in your life's journey, which must include dying.
Talk to people around you. It helps to talk and write about your issues.


Death, Dying and Canadian Families

Download Death, Dying and Canadian Families

This edition of Contemporary Family Trends is about the experiences of dying people and their
families in Canada. This report is meant to act as a conversation catalyst, helping to expand the dialogue surrounding death beyond right-to-die debates in order to form a foundation for future discussions about how we live our lives and face our deaths. To this end, Death, Dying and Canadian Families examines the historical experiences of death and dying, the changing role of families in end-of-life care and the “medicalization” of death and dying in Canada.

Why elderly men have the highest suicide rate in Canada

Neighbours in a Toronto suburb are still reeling from the double-suicide of a couple in their eighties. She with chronic pain, he once a social worker who helped those struggling with mental health issues. Their story is not so statistically unusual. Men in their 80s have a suicide rate in this country that is triple the rate of all other suicides. 

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