In her Mamamia column today, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Tanya Plibersek argues that we need to start talking about death and end-of-life care.
Everyone has a right to die with dignity.
My beautiful father fought cancer bravely, but when it had invaded his bone marrow and his veins were collapsing from the blood transfusions he relied on for white blood cells, he said no to further treatment.
He slipped away quietly, leaving the pain of sickness and the horror of treatment behind.
As a strong advocate for voluntary euthanasia, he didn’t, in the end, reach for the large bottle of morphine he’d been given to manage his pain. It sat at home in the refrigerator, used sparingly, a drop at a time, as he traded off pain for the lucidity he wanted as he said his good-byes.
Like most Australians he wanted to die at home. Like most Australians he ended up dying in hospital. (While 74% say they want to die at home, only about 16% do.)
But he was able to stay home almost to the end, because of great home nursing and wonderful support from the hospice where he was going for treatment.
Australia has one of the best life expectancy rates in the world. But it doesn’t mean we can avoid talking about dying. It’s important the people closest to you know what you want, and it’s important that our health system supports those choices.
Your family need to know your wishes about being an organ donor. More than three quarters of Australians say they want to donate their organs, but about half the time families ignore the wishes of their loved ones and prevent the organ donation. My Dad donated his bright blue eyes.
Your family need to know how much medical care you want and for how long. End-of-life care, or palliative care, is getting better all the time, but some people don’t want every medical intervention available: they want to go peacefully when the time comes.