Is Access to Palliative Care Fair for All? The Case of People at the End of Life Living on the Streets

Keywords: homelessness, palliative care, accessibility to care, end of life, social precarity, equity
Language(s): French


Every human being will at some point be exposed to some degree of suffering. One segment of the population, people experiencing homelessness, will be much more likely to experience death, illness and bereavement. In Quebec, they are four times more likely to develop cancer and their life expectancy is between 42 and 52 years. The high mortality and morbidity of the homeless population raises the following question: do these individuals have equitable access to palliative care resources? The arrival of Bill 2 in 2015, allowed for the regulation of end-of-life care in Quebec. At the heart of this law is the right of patients at the end of life to have access to palliative care to prevent and ease their suffering. Several issues influence the accessibility of palliative care for the homeless population. Individual factors such as mental illness and substance abuse complicate access to care. The distrust of individuals with multiple traumatic experiences adds another barrier. In addition, these individuals are too busy surviving to navigate the health care system. Structural factors, such as the lack of affordable housing or the impact of a siloed system less suited to complex social situations, contribute to a lack of accessibility. Prejudice is widespread, contributing to the symbolic and institutional exclusion of this population. The objective of this article is therefore to deepen our understanding of the issues of access to palliative care for the homeless population in Quebec.

How to Cite
Marchand M-H. Is Access to Palliative Care Fair for All? The Case of People at the End of Life Living on the Streets. Can. J. Bioeth. 2022;5:37-43.