George’s story

Dying for Care

In the mid 1990’s, a middle-aged Canadian man with advanced cancer walked into my office in a small rural town in southern Manitoba. I was the third physician he had visited for help. He was experiencing severe pain and none of the physicians had been able to help him.

He knew he was terminally ill, was not afraid of dying, but was fearful of suffering in whatever time he had remaining. Unfortunately, I, like the other doctors and many other health professionals, had never received any palliative care education. I informed George that I would not be able to increase the dose of morphine and that there was nothing more that I could do.

George was devastated. Unbeknownst to myself, the dose was already too low and further increases would have been safe and effective. George took his wife by the hand and, as he left the clinic room, he turned to me and said

“I hope one day doctors [and other health professionals] like you can better look after people like me.”

In that moment, I knew that, even as a family physician without a medical specialization in palliative care, there had to be more I could do to support patients with life-limiting illness. I sought training to improve my knowledge and within a few weeks, I travelled out-of-province for a four-day palliative care course to learn how I could offer better support and care for patients and families suffering as the result of life-limiting illness.

Newly armed with an understanding that helped me bring a palliative care approach to my patients, I re-connected with George when I returned to Manitoba, to offer him compassionate pain and symptom relief that improved his quality of life until the end of his life, a few months later.

This experience with George led to the creation of Pallium.