The location of death and dying across Canada: a study illustrating the socio-political context of death and dying
Background: Concern has existed for many years about the extensive use of hospitals by dying persons. In recent years, however, a potential shift out of hospital has been noticed in a number of developed countries, including Canada. In Canada, where high hospital occupancy rates and corresponding long waits and waitlists for hospital care are major socio-political issues, it is important to know if this shift has continued or if hospitalized death and dying remains predominant across Canada. Methods: Recent individual-anonymous population-level inpatient Canadian hospital data were analyzed to answer two questions: (1) what proportion of deaths in provinces and territories across Canada are occurring in hospital now? and (2) who is dying in hospital now? Results: In 2014-2015, 43.9% of all deaths in Canada (excluding Quebec) occurred in hospital. However, considerable cross-Canada differences in end-of-life hospital utilization were found. Some cross-Canada differences in hospital decedents were also noted, although most were older, male, and they died during a relatively short hospital stay after being admitted from their homes and through the emergency department after arriving by ambulance. Conclusion: Over half of all deaths in Canada are occurring outside of hospital now. Cross-Canada hospital utilization and inpatient decedent differences highlight opportunities for enhanced end-of-life care service planning and policy advancements.