As physicians, Dr. Willem Prinsloo and Dr. Tanja Daws were coming at questions around the end of life from different points of view.
Daws was an advocate for the now-legal Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD). Prinsloo, who works in palliative care, describes himself as one of those opposed to the idea, for fear it was pushing out palliative care as an option for people nearing death.
As time has gone on though, both realize they have more in common and that MAiD is as part of the whole discussion for terminally ill people.
“It’s not necessarily pitting one option against another option,” Prinsloo says.
On the evening of April 18, the two will be speaking at the Ask the Doctor Night event for the Campbell River Hospice Society at the North Island College Theatre from 6 to 8 p.m. Tickets are available online.
The event is designed to be a community conversation both around palliative care and MAiD, with Prinsloo focusing on the former and Daws on the latter.
Hospice clarifies the event is intended to provide a safe environment for discussing these difficult questions and is not to be a political discussion
Prinsloo will discuss out-patient or stay-at-home options along with in-hospital care, including pain and symptom management.
“I will just be defining what the definition of palliative care is,” he says.
He will discuss the consultation process and the involvement of family physicians. Finally, he will address decision-making around which patients are appropriate for available hospice beds – in other words, those that cannot stay at home but prefer a more home-like environment.
Prinsloo admits he was skeptical of MAiD in the past for fear it would be used to undermine palliative service or be used to highlight any possible shortcomings of palliative care. Now, he sees it as part of the multi-disciplinary approach necessary when working with people facing their end of their lives rather a reflection of palliative care quality.
Vancouver Island has a high rate of people choosing MAiD since it became legal in Canada in 2016, even higher than places such as the Netherlands, which could point to demographic factors such as an aging population but also a sympathetic philosophical environment for addressing end-of-life questions.
Daws emphasizes the program is patient-friendly.
“Whatever we do is whatever suits the patient,” she says.
She says MAiD offers a way to improve quality of life at the end, but she points out some people, once they know it is now an option and that they need not prolong suffering, actually choose not to go through with MAiD.
Some of her talk will focus on legal issues, as she says there is a strict legal structure that has to be followed. The process also can involve spiritual care, patient support groups and family members.
“It’s rare for me to see a patient without a family member in the room,” she says.
Because MAiD is still new, some people are apprehensive in talking about it, so the local hospice society hopes to provide an opportunity for people to learn more. For more information, see www.crhospice.ca.