Palliative Care Queensland

Time For Palliative Care Promises To Be Met

Queensland Peaks call for better funding for palliative care, and public respect, more thoughtful language and gratitude for frontline health workers currently providing specialist and generalist palliative care throughout Queensland and funding for a statewide bereavement program

The passage of voluntary assisted dying laws through Queensland parliament this week means it is now more important than ever that palliative care is properly funded and much more accessible around the state.

Throughout this debate, politicians have expressed their desire for people to die with dignity. Palliative care is all about allowing people to die with dignity, with as little pain as possible, and in a comforting setting.

Yet it remains chronically underfunded, and accessible only in the final few months of life in many areas across the state.

The underlying decision regarding the legislation of VAD is not our concern. However as peak bodies, we are concerned about the remaining gap of bereavement supports across the state, and the collateral damage resulting from this week’s comments by several Members of Parliament (MPs) implying that dignity in not currently provided by specialist and generalist palliative care teams throughout Queensland.

We have been concerned by MPs who have used the language of ‘dignity in death’ as a reason for their vote in favour of VAD, rather than ‘choice’. Linking dignity to the decision to implement VAD implies that dignity in death is not possible without VAD, therefore palliative care provides an undignified death. Living and dying with dignity are fundamental values in palliative care, not only for the patient but also for the family members.[1]

Such commentary does a disservice to the entire palliative care sector – frontline doctors, nurses, allied health workers, carers, family members and volunteers. These people are dedicated to providing all Queenslanders with quality of life and dignity at the end stage of life, from the moment of diagnosis of a life limiting condition through to bereavement care for their loved ones. They support a grossly underfunded sector, often in extremely challenging circumstances due to the lack of palliative care provision across the state, and deserve more respect and gratitude than we have seen throughout this debate. As do families who are currently under the care of our outstanding, although under-resourced, palliative care teams across Queensland.

“This commentary has not just concerned many specialist palliative care staff, but also generalist palliative care teams including staff in emergency departments, intensive care, oncology, renal, general medical wards and primary care. We are concerned that such comments imply that all front-line health staff and services through Queensland’s public and private health sectors are unable to provide any dignity in death. For some MPs and leaders to be implying a lack of dignity in death so broadly across the health sector, is disappointing. The quality of care provided by our frontline health workers should not be underestimated.”

We also note the personal unresolved grief expressed by several MPs during this debate and express our compassion for them. Dying is a normal part of life. Grief is a normal part of life. Bereavement support is a core function of palliative care[2], yet is a significant gap throughout Queensland. Therefore, we all support the call for $6M over 3 years to fund a Statewide Bereavement Program

[1] Sandgren A, Axelsson L, Bylund-Grenklo T, Benzein E. Family members’ expressions of dignity in palliative care: a qualitative study. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. 2021;35(3):937-44.

[2] Palliative Care Queensland .

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