Catholic Health Australia (CHA) members have ramped up their call for funding palliative care as a better option than legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide (so called “Voluntary Assisted Dying”). CHA is the peak body that represents dozens of Catholic hospitals and aged care services across Queensland, many of whom provide palliative care services. The membership includes the Mater, St Vincent’s Healthcare, OZ Care, Southern Cross Care and the St Vincent de Paul Society to name just a few.
The public campaign – “No to Euthanasia – There is another option” – is intentionally two pronged. It advocates for a properly resourced palliative care system at the same time as standing firmly against the euthanasia and assisted suicide legislation due for debate in Queensland’s parliament in September. Through a combination of newspaper ads, social media and a newly launched website it will highlight the critical underfunding of palliative care to both state MP’s and the public. Although the Government has been quick to point to additional funding of $28 million per annum promised over 6 years (on top of the current annual budget of $110 million), the shortfall is not even close to being adequately addressed. Palliative Care industry research has indicated that proper funding would cost just under $400 million annually, representing less than 2% of the total $23 billion Queensland Health budget.
Unfortunately Palliative care is not well enough known or understood in the wider community. It is a specialty medical field that eliminates the need for euthanasia and assisted suicide. It commences at the point of terminal diagnosis and continues to ensure a person lives a pain free and meaningful life until the natural end of their life.
CHA contends good palliative care is a life-supporting choice that manages pain using the latest technologies and analgesics, and recent research shows it can improve and extend quality of life.
CHA Director of Mission Rebecca Burdick Davies said State MPs should be encouraged to choose the better option of funded palliative care. “Instead of forcing vulnerable people to choose between pain and death, our politicians could provide funding for modern palliative care,” Davies said. “Most Queenslanders can’t access better palliative care, but it should be available to everyone before we offer the option of suicide. People who are very sick should have relief from their pain so their loved ones can share precious time with them. We should back the compassionate alternative,” she said.
The CHA campaign theme – “No to Euthanasia – There is another option” – is a hopeful one – even within the darkness of facing the reality of end of life care. This is largely due to the fact practitioners within CHA member facilities have already witnessed that dying with “dignity” can and does exist, through expertly delivered palliative and end-of-life care.
With easier access to such treatment, people can live and pass away comfortably, pain free, and have their needs met and supported. Whilst these services remain vastly under-funded, however, it continues to deny any real choice to someone who is suffering, particularly for those living in rural and regional parts of the state.
Supporters of better-funded palliative care can use the CHA campaign website to air their views and write directly to both the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Leader of the Opposition, David Crisafulli.
Like CHA, they might believe our parliament would be doing Queenslanders a great disservice by allowing state-sanctioned suicide instead of investing in a world-class palliative care system which could make a huge difference to the lives of those suffering and to their families.
The full CHA “No to Euthanasia – There is another option” website can be accessed here.