Matters of life and death

If you want to keep up with Reverend Dr. Marc Jerry of Red Deer, you’ll need to wear your sneakers. 

A Lutheran pastor, spouse, parent, board member for the Bethany Care Society, professor and pilot, Marc is always on the go. He takes his busy schedule in stride, though he admits ministry has high burnout rates that mirror those in high-pressure healthcare roles. “Church life is everything,” he says. “I go where and when I’m needed.”

Rev. Marc Jerry prays before leading Sunday service at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Red Deer. Faith is the cornerstone of his life of service and leadership.

The esteemed urban pastor and former economics professor is one of 12 Canadians invited to serve on a lay panel at a national Palliative Care Matters consensus-building conference. 

Panel members have varied professions and lifestyles, but all have first-hand experience with palliative care. Marc has witnessed palliative care many times as a hospital chaplain and faith leader.

One of his most memorable patients was a Second World War veteran who was haunted by a horrific memory of the landing in Italy. “This man was on the boat that had the equipment, and his buddies were on the transport boat,” Marc explains. “They sank the transport boat but not the equipment boat. So he had carried that guilt with him ever since the war."

Marc believes the prayers they shared eased the patient’s suffering. He also thinks spiritual care is a critical part of palliative care, and something every Canadian should have access to. “Having a chaplain come and receive these stories graciously, and for those with faith to offer prayer, is a hugely important part of the palliative care package.”

Marc offers a sign of peace to members of his church family at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Red Deer.

As an economist, Marc has a unique perspective on the costs and benefits of palliative care. "It is easy to say that we need a comprehensive palliative care strategy for Canada, but what is that going to cost, and what are the pieces we can cut out to make it affordable?”

The lay panel’s work will contribute to a Conference Board of Canada report outlining policy options and implementation plans for a national palliative care strategy.

“Recommendations about palliative care historically come from healthcare professionals,” explains Karen Macmillan, Senior Operating Officer, Acute Service at Grey Nuns Community Hospital and conference co-chair. “While experts play a critical role in the discussion, we can’t move forward without meaningful input from Canadians on their lived experience and concrete direction on what they want and need from palliative care. The lay panel, and our national research, is about having everyday Canadians chart the course for the future of end-of-life care."

Marc is optimistic about the panel’s important task. “I am hopeful that we can create a concise enough document to inform the review of the health accords by the federal government next year,” he says. “I also hope our work will put the topic of palliative care front and centre in the larger discussions surrounding end-of-life care.” He adds, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if, at some point in the future, Canada's leadership in improving palliative care would be well known around the world?"

Canadians share their views on palliative care infographic

Contribute to The Vital Beat

Have a story to share about health care? An idea for an article? We value all contributions.

Submit an idea