Palliative Care Matters is putting the public at the centre of the conversation about palliative care in Canada. Palliative Care Matters is asking everyday Canadians and experts alike what they need from our health care system.

Frequently asked questions

What is palliative care?

Palliative care provides comfort and support to patients and families:

  • During a life limiting illness,
  • At the end stages of life, and
  • When dealing with grief and loss

Relieving pain and other symptoms is an important part of palliative care. It prevents and relieves psychological and spiritual suffering. Palliative care improves the quality of life for people of any age and at any stage of a serious illness.

For a further explanation of palliative care, please visit the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care AssociationThis is the definition that Palliative Care Matters is using as the basis for its work

What is Palliative Care Matters setting out to do?

Palliative Care Matters will have three major outcomes.

Phase One, Listening to Canadians, will examine how Canadians think and feel about palliative care. This will be done through public opinion research that explores the experience, needs and aspirations of citizens regarding palliative care and Canadians’ views of the role of palliative care in the broader health system. 

Phase Two, Reaching a Consensus, is a consensus development conference where Canadians will have an opportunity to hear the evidence around palliative care and a panel of their peers (the Lay Panel) will weigh the evidence and develop a consensus statement in the form of recommendations. 

In Phase Three, Creating Change, The Conference Board of Canada will develop and publish an independent report. This report will be based on the consensus statement issued by the Lay Panel. The report, to be released early in 2017, will outline policy options and recommendations for implementation. These will be available to guide governments, healthcare organizations, professionals and other stakeholders in improving access to and the delivery of palliative care in Canada.

Phase One: TalkPhase Two: UnderstandPhase Three: Do
Listening to CanadiansReaching a ConsensusCreating Change
From now until the Fall, we are gathering information from Canadians about what they know, how they feel and what they expect.At a conference in Ottawa on November 7-9, 2016, a lay panel of Canadians will hear the evidence and develop a Canadian consensus around what needs to happen.The Canadian consensus on Palliative Care will be brought forward to policy makers, governments and the public so we can act together to make better palliative care a reality.

A more detailed description of the three phases can be found in the Consensus Development Conference Model.

Why now?

Palliative care is one the most important public health issues of our time. Canadians need equitable access to high-quality palliative care that is based on best practice and reflects their needs and values.

According to the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association, only 16-30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care, although 96 per cent of them support it. 

We also know that when people receive palliative care shortly after the diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, patients and caregivers have lower levels of stress and depression; and patients have less pain, better control of other symptoms and improved medical outcomes. Patients receiving palliative care also have shorter hospital stays, spend less time in intensive care and require fewer emergency department visits (CIHI, 2007).

Now is the time for all Canadians to speak up.

Is this the same as the debate on medical assistance in dying?

No. Canada’s discussion on medical assistance in dying has made end-of-life care a topic of daily discussion across the country. With the passage of Bill C-14, medical assistance in dying is now a legal option for people. 

However, only a very small number of Canadians are expected to request medical assistance in dying. 

That’s why we need to look more broadly when it comes to caring for people during life-limiting illnesses or at the end of their lives. Canadians deserve access to a full range of options when they are in the midst of life-limiting illnesses, including a high standard of palliative care. 

For more information from Health Canada, please visit Options and decision-making on its website.