Palliative care refers to all the treatment and care given to patients suffering from a terminal illness.
- Palliative care is given to persons of all ages who have a serious and incurable illness that may lead to their death in the foreseeable future.
- It is not limited to cancer sufferers.
- Its aim is to offer patients the best possible quality of life, without speeding up or slowing down death.
- Palliative care is also for those close to the patient, offering them support, psychosocial assistance and respite in all phases of the illness and bereavement.
In some complex situations, it may be impossible to relieve the suffering and pain of a person at the end of life through normal palliative care. The use of continuous palliative sedation may then be considered as a treatment option. This is a palliative treatment in which medication is administered to patients at the end of life, at their own request or that of a relative, to relieve their suffering by keeping them unconscious.
How can I access this care?
The point at which palliative care is called for will be determined by the doctor, on the basis of his or her clinical expertise and that of the other members of the care team. All the patient’s needs will be taken into account, in addition to an estimate of the likely progress of the illness until death.
Regarding continuous palliative sedation, end-of-life patients must freely give their informed consent. If they are incapable of giving such consent, their representative must do so on their behalf. The prescribed consent form must be signed in the presence of the doctor and filed in the patient’s record.
Patients who agree to receive continuous palliative sedation are always free to change their mind, and can, at any time and by any means, withdraw their consent to continuous palliative sedation.
End-of-life patients receiving palliative care or medical aid in dying will be supported by:
- The attending physician
- A multidisciplinary team of health and social services professionals (e.g., nurses, social workers, etc.)
Where can I obtain these services?
End-of-life care, i.e., palliative care and medical aid in dying, can be obtained:
- in institutions of the health and social services network (hospitals and residential and long-term care centres – CHSLD)
- at home
- in palliative care centres
However, each institution or palliative care centre has an end-of-life care policy which outlines the nature and extent of the care it provides. End-of-life patients and their loved ones should review this policy before choosing a care site.