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CMA debate on end-of-life care goes virtual

The Canadian Medical Association’s national dialogue on end-of-life care went virtual earlier this week, as CMA President Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti led a wide-ranging online discussion.

Hosted on the Maclean’s magazine website, the one-hour chat covered a number of topics and saw participants ask many questions and express their views. Maclean’s has been the CMA’s partner in the series of public town hall meetings across Canada on end-of-life care issues this spring.

“Canadians are ready to have a frank discussion on end of life,” Francescutti said in his opening comments.

“My grade 12 sociology class is looking at this topic,” one participant posted. “What would you want young people to consider most when thinking about end-of-life issues?” Francescutti answered that advance care planning was an ideal issue for students to consider because families need to discuss end-of-life wishes “right now.”

He also said family doctors “play a crucial role in planning for end-of-life care. Lack of advance care planning usually brings out the worst in family dynamics. Family doctors can really help patients and their families through this.”

Participants in the online forum included 87-year-old Betty Maryon, of Burnaby, BC, who was featured in a recent Maclean’s article discussing her wishes for “a quick, peaceful end — at the time of my choosing.” Maryon tackled the argument that legalizing euthanasia in certain circumstances would lead down a “slippery slope” to widespread use of the practice by stating that “some people abuse pain-killing drugs, but we do not ban them for all, but legislate regulation.”

Asked what role the federal government should have at the end-of-life care debate, Francescutti said: “The federal government can help develop a national palliative care strategy that provinces can build on.”

The online discussion concluded with Francescutti inviting people to join him at the last public town hall meeting in the series, scheduled for Mississauga, ON, and live streamed on the magazine website on May 27. Following that meeting, the CMA will prepare a report for release in June on feedback gathered from the meetings.

Francescutti also acknowledged that, starting in July, he will spend a year at West Island Palliative Care centre in Montreal where his mother received “excellent care”, trying to determine what makes it so successful.

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