MP Olivia Chow Calls for Strengthened Government Support for Palliative Care, Honours Caregivers and Volunteers
April 20, 2012
WINNIPEG – Olivia Chow today called for greater social awareness and support for palliative care. Drawing from her experience with the care that Jack Layton received before his passing, the MP for Trinity-Spadina demands government assistance to make humane and dignifying medical care accessible and affordable to all Canadians.
Underlining how government-provided healthcare offers support when a child is born, Olivia Chow is urging society to ensure palliative care is provided to all Canadians in their final stage in life.
Please read the full text of Olivia’s speech below.
Early this year, on January 5th, I had the good fortune of being at the birth of my grand-daughter Solace Layton Campbell.
For days all of us in the extended Layton family anticipated her arrival. And when the moment came, we were full of joy and wonder. A new year, a new birth, a new life to celebrate. At the moment she was born Solace lived up to her name.
Solace came to the world surrounded by families and people who deeply love her. She was surrounded by love. Jack Layton left this world surrounded by families and people who deeply loved him. He was surrounded by love.
Solace’s mother, Sarah Layton, received a lot of help in the community when she was pregnant – in addition to all the love and support of family and friends. And of course, she had help from the health care system. She had instructions, classes, groups, medical examinations, tests.
When her baby was almost ready to arrive, Sarah had nurses to assist her. And she had her doctor to help control the pain, to coach her, to help with the arrival of the baby.
And their assistance – this whole network of support — made the whole experience so much smoother, enjoyable and inspirational. And, of course, a lot less painful.
Just as we come into the world, we too must leave. The journey is different for everyone, but the destination is constant.
And just as the journey to the arrival of a new baby has great support from the community and the government, so too should that last journey to the departure.
Celebrating Life in the Face of Death
Jack was blessed with excellent palliative care and support. We had nurses to provide personal care and support at our home.
We had doctors to help control pain, to provide last minute instruction and let us know what to expect when the final hours arrive. We had listening ears to help comfort us and the rest of the family.
Jack’s death was without pain, without trepidation and without fear. His family experienced no guilt and regret, and made decisions in full accordance with Jack’s will.
Now seriously, how many people managed to watch the Return of the Jedi, in full volume, with his entire family in the house, 12 hours before passing?
We were very lucky – financially, and professionally, I was able to take time off from work in the last month to be with Jack and help with his care. We live just a stone’s throw from the hospital in Toronto. We have a house where we were able to take care of Jack in comfort – and a front garden where we could have flowers planted to bloom in his view.
The children live nearby, and many of the family. And we were very lucky to have palliative support from the medical community, caregivers, volunteers.
Because of the palliative support, in death, we were able to celebrate Jack Layton’s life. To rejoice in his spirit.
Society Needs to Act
But sadly, Jack’s experience is not at all universal in Canada. Too many Canadians take their final journey without the kind of comprehensive care and support Jack enjoyed.
Too many families do not have the knowledge and the power to feel they are in control of the final journey. Too many feel the despair of the end and not the celebration of life.
Too many families do not have the care and support – or financial resources — required so the journey can be experienced at home, or in surroundings of great comfort for all. And in a way that is less stressful and painful.
Too many families do not experience the pure energy when we come together to celebrate a life in time of death. To hold each other’s hands and sing, and praise a life well lived.
My friends, just as the birth of a baby receives comprehensive care and support from the community and the government, so too should every death.
Palliative care is critically important, not just for the patient, but for the entire family. All of you here today know that so well.
Importance of Volunteers and Staff
But until we have comprehensive, accessible and universal palliative care provided though our health care system –you, as volunteers and front line staff, are filling this critically important role.
What you do is important beyond measure – our entire society is in your debt.
You give the knowledge and power to the family to make decisions that will help them through the journey. Whether it is a visit, a day trip, a drive, you provide a helping hand and hold a hand in time of need. You provide a listening ear to hear the loss, grief, and bereavement. You help families cope and focus on the love, and not the fears.
You also provide the spiritual guidance, which can be so important — whether it is for the person to move toward god, goddess, Yahweh, Allah (blessed be his name), or going to heaven, or going to the void or to be reincarnated.
You do so as compassionate and caring individuals, and through the all-important group work. Helping people in grief – helping people in despair know that they are not alone. Helping those who grieve transform their painful emptiness to acceptance to precious and loving memories. Helping to ease the pain. Helping loss become affirmation of life.
It is wonderful to see you all here – to be able to thank you for the amazing work you do – the amazing gift you give. Four hundred of you volunteer your time here in Manitoba, and not just delivering direct service, but also behind the scenes… the administrative support, making the newsletter possible, fund raising to support all activities, to organize a luncheon like this, to plan, to educate and train volunteers, to advocate for appropriate government policies. And we need many more of those!
Jack’s Message: Made Possible by You
I know that many of you – and many people across our wonderful country – were touched and inspired by Jack’s last message.
That last message was made possible because of the palliative care Jack received – the comfort, the strength, the compassion, the guidance on the final journey.
You all know that hope is better than fear, optimism is better than despair, and love is better than anger – because you make that a reality every day. You make that a reality for every person you give comfort to. You make it a reality for every life you touch. Every life – and every death is important.
What you do takes great courage – and great humanity. You are the essence of a caring society – the kind of society Jack Layton worked for – the kind of society that we all want to create for little Solace Layton Campbell and all the new lives we welcome with hope. With optimism. And with love.
Thank you. Thank you all.