The Victorian parliament is currently looking into the life-and-death issues of euthanasia and palliative care, with a view to possible legislation.
I dare say it will not be very long before similar procedures will cross over the border into NSW.
Fortunately, there has been some effort already to look into both these end-of-life ways and means, and Orange is blessed in having an active and well-informed Push for Palliative committee working on the subject.
What is particularly surprising is the widespread lack of understanding of all that is involved in adopting either of these procedures.
The word palliative is defined in the dictionary as alleviation of pain or anxiety without claiming to offer a cure.
Euthanasia is simply defined as taking a life, as in suicide or murder.
If a health service has a properly established, located, funded, and adequately-staffed palliative care service with access both in the community and within designated and appropriate care facilities, then more people would be able to access it and understand its purpose without being sidetracked by the horrible alternative of voluntary euthanasia.
One thing we can all be certain of: we are all going to die one day.
Just how and when is part of the mystery of life itself.
With palliative management, following terminal diagnosis, the patient is provided with levels of treatment that will alleviate but not cure the illness, as well as creating opportunities for both patients and families to experience loving kindness and precious time together.
Both the carers and the cared-for are all part of palliative care.
Patients can be given adequate and appropriate medication to control pain levels.
Families and loved ones need time to walk the walk alongside the patient and be able to look back and treasure the memories, rather than feel guilty for having been part of a decision that didn’t allow nature to take its course.
Doctors face a moral dilemma if asked to make a decision in favour of euthanasia.
Their Hippocratic Oath reminds them that killing people is not part of their call to practice medicine.
They don’t need to be pressured to consider contrary alternatives.
Here in Orange we have a health service both applauded and envied by many as providing the best facilities outside the metropolitan area.
Yet, sadly, provision for proper palliative care does not seem to be high on the agenda.
At the old, soon-to-be-demolished hospital there were two palliative care rooms that many families and friends recall with love and gratitude, where they were able to share the closing days with their loved ones who died with dignity, serenity, and respect and appropriate privacy.
Hopefully, before too long, we will be able again to have a palliative care service appropriate to the needs of the people, fully staffed and funded and accessibly located.
Some smaller towns and health services have these in place so what is standing in our way?
We need to have palliative care services functioning at least on a par with all the other excellent specialty services being provided by our Orange Health Service.