I am not an oncologist, but I have lived for six years with incurable cancer. This makes me a de facto expert in the cancer patient experience in our healthcare system. It is in this capacity that I add my voice to that of Dr. Denis Soulières to demand from our leaders actions that are prioritized, integrated and consistent with the Quebec reality of cancer and its alarming flaws. I have less and less time to waste.
While patients like me do have “a personal story over time” that clinicians feel like they are losing, not least because they lack the ability to intervene at the right time and with the right means, how can we not demand a concrete mobilization of our decision-makers against what looks more and more like a public health crisis?
Need we remind you that cancer is “the leading cause of death in Quebec, before cardiovascular disease”2 and “on average, in Quebec, someone dies of cancer every 24 minutes”. How then can we not call for emergency measures to improve our ability to stem the “158 new cases of cancer per day”?2
Since it seems that the tough questions about cancer do not arise in the offices of government bodies or on the boards of directors of institutions in our health care system, then how can we not demand that “our government” have the courage to commit to developing a concerted, long-term vision with those involved in the fight against cancer to stem this health crisis?
Recent advances in medical assistance in dying inevitably stimulate individual and collective reflection about the conditions in which we will end our lives. Before arriving there, the course of care is often long and clearly perfectible to ensure people with incurable cancer a relative quality of life.
Indeed, the period extending from the announcement of an incurable prognosis to death is an existential epic strewn with pitfalls.
Otherwise, how surprising that “66% of the 3663 people who requested medical assistance in dying in 2020-2021 had cancer”?4 As a last option, they have only the choice to assume the full right to what is left of their quality of life.
In conclusion, I do not wish us another policy for which we would have neither the political will nor the field capacity to implement. Nor do I believe we need another super parastatal that will make recommendations that will not be enforced by rotating governments.
I hope that we will give ourselves the means to provide integrated, humane and effective end-of-life care to people struggling with any incurable chronic disease such as cancer, in particular by learning about the dialogue of the patient-doctor-hospital chain. -institutions-managers-elected. In my opinion, this requires continuous monitoring and the implementation of international best practices based on indicators relevant to our specific context.
Finally, I sincerely hope that “those who built Quebec”, namely the representatives of its aging population, particularly affected by cancer, have access to care that will allow them to live and die without undue suffering caused by failures of a system whose repercussions we will all experience at the cost of our existence.