Palliative Care Matters


In 2016, I had the privilege of being part of a team of consultants from Buksa working with Covenant Health on a national public engagement on palliative care. I’ve worked on policy and engagement projects for over thirty years. Palliative Care Matters stands out for how it remained focused on the views of Canadians, kept lay people involved and was academically rigorous.

The following is from a presentation on Palliative Care Matters I made at the Rundle Summit in February 2017.

Like many persistent social problems, there have been calls for change to palliative care in Canada for decades. Reports have been written and conferences held. However, access and quality are still problems.

In 2016, Covenant Health saw an opportunity to advocate for change: Public interest was high as a result of attention paid to medical assistance in dying as a public policy issue and the discussion Canadians were having around end of life.

Covenant looked at what hadn’t occurred. First, the voice of Canadians hadn’t been the focus. Many of the reports were written from the perspective of a particular provider or disease state, like cancer.

So Palliative Care Matters began by asking Canadians what they wanted to see happen. Who they wanted to care for them. What care they want, where it should be provided. The questions were distilled from the 19 previous reports done in Canada and their 192 recommendations using a nominal group technique.

Ipsos Research was engaged to conduct focus groups and an online survey of 1,540 Canadians. Canadians felt strongly the palliative care should be available, that it should be a national program and they want the Government of Canada to take a leadership role.

In the next phase, a consensus development conference was held in Ottawa November 7-9, 2016. This model of conference provides a way to bring together citizens, decision-makers and experts to address issues of public importance. At the conference, a Lay Panel of 12 Canadians examined the survey results, listened to evidence brought forward by eight experts in palliative care and then made a series of recommendations on changes needed in the Canadian system.

Their recommendations included making palliative care an insured service under the Canada Health Act; that funding should be provided for building capacity, setting standards and research; training for every physician on palliative care; a national strategy developed; and a public awareness campaign.

The initiative generated national discussion. The consensus statement and its recommendations will be at the heart of a road map for Canada released in the spring of 2017. The Conference Board of Canada is preparing a report outlining potential policy options and implementation plans to guide governments, health care organizations, professionals and other stakeholders.

The information and perspectives  are my own.

For further information, I encourage you to visit

You can view my presentation at PCM Presentation Judith Dyck


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