June 2015   Comments

In the March issue, the President’s Message (“A Momentous Decision”) spoke about the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on physician-assisted death. In explaining the legislative context, we pointed out that Quebec is the only province to have developed legislation on medical aid in dying. We wrote that the legislation “outlined the conditions in which a terminally ill adult patient of sound mind may request continuous palliative sedation that would lead to death.”

This should have said: “specified requirements in which a terminally ill adult patient of sound mind may access either continuous palliative sedation or medical aid in dying.”

Our thanks to Brenda Hearson of the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Nurses Group for writing to us about the importance of this distinction.

Continuous palliative sedation may be administered to patients at or near the end of life who have refractory symptoms (those that cannot be controlled by any other means) for relieving intolerable pain or suffering. Hearson writes, “The intent is symptom relief, not to end the patient’s life. The underlying disease, not the medication administered, is the cause of death. Continuous palliative sedation should not be confused with physician-assisted death, in which medication is administered with the intent to end a person’s life.”

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