Inaccessible and underfunded palliative care will leave vulnerable patients feeling that euthanasia is their only option, West Australia palliative care providers have said.
Albany Community Hospice chairwoman, Jane Mouritz, has urged the WA government to fix the crisis in the state’s palliative care services before introducing assisted suicide and euthanasia.
While the government has announced a palliative care funding commitment over the next four years, it is only a quarter of what palliative care providers in the state need to ensure quality palliative care is provided to those who need it.
According to those doctors, the 15 full-time equivalent palliative carers in WA – the lowest proportion of specialist palliative care doctors of any state in Australia – is just one third the number needed to meet national benchmarks.
Speaking to the Western Suburbs Weekly, Lou Angus, a palliative carer for 30 years, called WA “the most under-resourced State when it comes to palliative care specialists.”
Quoted in the West Australian, Ms Mouritz said that both availability of, and education and training about, palliative care needed to be increased.
Ms Lou also outlined the need for education, saying that many doctors either did not know to refer patients to specialist palliative care services or made the referral too late.
WA Palliative Medicine Specialists Group chairman Dr Anil Tandon said the levels of palliative care are not at a level that specialists would want for their own loved ones.
“Because appropriate expert care is not available, many have no choice but to continue suffering. As a result, euthanasia may seem like the only option,” he said.
Palliative carers are telling the WA government that palliative care is so drastically underfunded that euthanasia could seem like the only choice for those vulnerable patients who are not fortunate enough to live in the “areas of high socioeconomic advantage” where palliative care is available.
Is this indicative of a government interested in end-of-life “choices”?
A government interested in end-of-life choices would, at the very least, heed the warnings of palliative carers and give them the resources they need to provide much-needed services to West Australians, rather than giving them only a quarter of the funding they request.
A government interested in end-of-life choices would prioritise availability of and education about palliative care, instead of fast-tracking the public consultation, drafting and tabling of an assisted suicide law.
A government interested in end-of-life choices would, put simply, give sick and elderly citizens more than just one “choice.”