In 1973, in response to work being done by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in the area of death and dying, Dr. Balfour Mount, a urologic-cancer surgeon, began to explore the needs of dying patients at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. After a visit to St. Christopher’s Hospice (founded by Dame Cicely Saunders) in London, England, Dr. Mount began a similar service for the dying at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital. With the development of this new service in 1974, Dr. Mount coined the term “palliative care” to highlight the notion of cloaking or protecting those living with terminal illness, with attention to quality of life up until the moment of death. In 1976, Dr. Mount and his colleagues hosted the first international conference on palliative care in North America. The Congress on Care for the Terminally Ill has subsequently become the world renowned International Congress on Palliative Care and has been hosted biennially at McGill since 1976. Thanks to the generous support of Mrs. Kappy Flanders, in 1994 Dr. Mount became the first Eric M. Flanders Chair and founding Director of McGill Programs in Palliative Care (Palliative Care McGill).
Since its inception, Palliative Care McGill (PCM) has provided powerful leadership and advocacy nationally and internationally. Its members played a key role in establishing the first Senate Committee on Palliative Care, in developing the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (SR Cohen et al, 1997; translated into 15 languages and used internationally), in implementing a specialized medical residency in palliative medicine, and in uniting diverse palliative care services in various McGill-affiliated teaching hospitals. Under the leadership of Dr. Bernard Lapointe (named the Eric M. Flanders Chair in 2009), PCM has been active in discussions of establishing palliative care as a medical subspecialty in Canada and has also provided expert counsel to both the Quebec Government Select Committee on Dying with Dignity and the Canadian Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care.