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Children's Palliative Care Needs Urgent Attention

Cardus outlines inexcusably large gaps in care for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions


13 February, 2024

OTTAWA, ON – Too many Canadian children who need palliative care don’t get it, or only get it only within the last weeks or days of life, according to a new report from think tank Cardus. The State of Pediatric Palliative Care in Canada points to ongoing gaps in the availability of palliative care for children—which means giving children facing life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses or conditions, and their families, holistic care that manages physical symptoms, supports their psychosocial, spiritual and emotional needs, and helps in grief and bereavement.

“While we’ve seen some improvements in the provision of palliative care for children, there are still inexcusably large gaps in availability,” says Rebecca Vachon, report author and health program director at Cardus. “The worst problems with access and quality of children’s palliative care are in low-income and rural areas, as well as among Indigenous populations.”

In terms of quality of care, the Cardus report finds most children are not receiving home-based palliative care and are unable to die at home. The vast majority of children die in hospitals instead, often in emergency departments or pediatric intensive-care units. This can result in children undergoing high-intensity interventions in these settings at the end of life, which may not adequately support a focus on their comfort or quality of life.

“Every infant, child, teen, and family deserves holistic care—from diagnosis to life’s natural end,” says Vachon. “If governments, charities, and others prioritised palliative care for children, they could help improve comfort and quality of life for thousands of children and families in some of the most difficult situations anyone could ever face.”

The State of Pediatric Palliative Care is freely available on the Cardus website.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications

Cardus – Imagination toward a thriving society
Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.