One Specialist for every 704 deaths: palliative care problems in Australia

Picture1.jpgThousands of our fellow Australians are dying in excruciating pain, thanks to the government's egregious disregard for the state of our palliative care system. In a piece titled “’Not the way they wanted to die’: Final wishes of thousands of Australians going unmet,” The Sydney Morning Herald volunteers some sobering statistics:

Palliative Care Australia estimates that while 70 per cent of Australians wish to die at home, only around 14 per cent do so. Its pre-budget submission said there were just 213 palliative medicine specialists across Australia, equating to one for every 704 deaths each year.

Considering the tremendous advances that palliative care has made in the past years, especially in terms of the level of pain relief and comfort it brings to terminally ill patients, these methods are tragically under-utilized. Acknowledging this, Palliative Care Australia has reached out to the Commonwealth government, demanding that end-of-life care become a national priority:

"[T]ens of thousands of Australians will die in a way and in a place that does not reflect their values or their choices".

"Their end-of-life journey will likely be punctuated with avoidable, or unwanted, admissions to hospital with the confusion, loss of dignity and loss of control that comes with it. This is not acceptable," it said, adding that reforms in this area "should be a high priority for governments".

However, with the growing focus on the cheaper and more utilitarian method of euthanasia, politicians’ interest in improving palliative care has decreased. This phenomenon lends credence to the fact that a nation that promotes death inevitably undermines the services of care.

Threatened by this culture of death, it is up to us to keep euthanasia and assisted suicide at bay. The terminally ill and the elderly deserve to live their final years with true dignity. They deserve pain relief, not death.