AMA urges government to spend more on end of life care and palliative services

Australia’s peak doctors group has urged governments to increase funding for quality end of life care and nationally consistent palliative care services in Australia.

Australia’s peak doctors group has urged governments to increase funding for quality end of life care and nationally consistent palliative care services in Australia.

The Australian Medical Association has also called for a comprehensive education and information campaign to raise community awareness of the medical and nursing assistance available at the end of life.

“Doctors have an ethical duty to care for dying patients so that they can die in comfort and with dignity,” said AMA president Dr Michael Gannon yesterday as the peak body released its Position Statement on Euthanasia and Physician Assisted Suicide 2016.

The updated statement is the result of a comprehensive year-long policy review by the AMA, including a survey of members.

The AMA’s position on euthanasia is that doctors should not be involved in interventions that have as their primary intention the ending of a person’s life.

“This does not include the discontinuation of treatments that are of no medical benefit to a dying patient. This is not euthanasia,” Dr Gannon said.

The position statement said the AMA recognised there are “divergent views within the medical profession and the broader community in relation to euthanasia and physician assisted suicide” and that laws relating to both are a matter for society and government.

“If governments decide that laws should be changed to allow for the practice of euthanasia and/or physician assisted suicide, the medical profession must be involved in the development of relevant legislation, regulations and guidelines,” it said.

On good quality end of life care and the relief of pain and suffering, the position statement said that doctors should understand they have a responsibility to initiate and provide good quality end of life care which “strives to ensure that a dying patient is free from pain and suffering and endeavours to uphold the patient’s values, preferences and goals of care.”

All dying patients have the right to receive relief from pain and suffering, even where this may shorten their life, the statement said.

“Access to timely, good quality end of life and palliative care can vary throughout Australia. As a society, we must ensure that no individual requests euthanasia or physician assisted suicide simply because they are unable to access this care,” it said.

The AMA called on government to improve end of life care through the adequate resourcing of palliative care services and advance care planning; the development of nationally consistent legislation protecting doctors in providing good end of life care; and increased development and resourcing of enhanced palliative care services, supporting GPs and nurses.

Palliative Care Australia welcomed the AMA’s support for both palliative care and conversations in the community about dying.

“The AMA is right to note that access to timely, good quality end of life and palliative care can vary throughout Australia, and largely depends on your postcode” said CEO Liz Callaghan.

“People who are missing out include some people living in rural areas and in aged care facilities, it includes some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people from culturally diverse backgrounds, as well as people with dementia and other non-cancer life-limiting conditions,” she said.

PCA said it supported the AMA’s recommendation to ensure adequate resourcing of palliative care and advance care planning services.

Access the position statement here

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Tags: advance-care-planning, ama, end-of-life-care, Liz Callaghan, michael-gannon, palliative care, palliative-care-australia,

3 thoughts on “AMA urges government to spend more on end of life care and palliative services

  1. Good quality palliative care and end of life care should be approached holistically. Allied health staff are an integral part of the palliative care approach and should also be available routinely

  2. Part of good palliative care, is giving the patient the option of requesting from their doctor – a gentle, painless exit from suffering, should their life become unbearable.

  3. Everyone is entitled to know and be aware and assured they are entitled to a pain free, dignified and respectful death. Many live in fear of what the process of death will be. Agree a national agenda and palliative care policy should be in place. More resources to provide appropriate care in the country areas a high priority. More education needed in communities about what one’s rights and family being confident to be an advocate for loved ones. We all need to be nurtured at birth and in death.

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