QUEENSLAND’S peak Catholic women’s group has told a state parliamentary inquiry that the health system should not be focused on ending life but on providing good-quality palliative care.
“We’ve got to stand up for what we believe,” 82-year-old Veronica Box, who is state president of the Catholic Women’s League, said after addressing the Inquiry into Aged Care End-of-Life, Palliative Care and Voluntary Assisted Dying.
Mrs Box spoke on behalf of 700 CWL members during an inquiry hearing in Caloundra on May 3, explaining that good terminal illness care would “validate the lives of individuals” who were suffering and/or at the end of their life.
“It’s not that we don’t have feelings for people suffering – we do,” she said.
Mrs Box delivered a moving personal testimony and presented a written submission focused on the lack of palliative care available in country Queensland, and the difficulty of patients trying to negotiate the red tape involved in NDIS, My Aged Care and Queensland Community Care.
“How well a society cares for its vulnerable, weak and unwell members is, we believe, to be a measure of the loving capacity and resourcefulness of that society,” the CWL submission stated.
“When the quality of its care is guaranteed and safeguarded by society, its members are able to trust and have confidence in its provision.
“In contrast to the medical, nursing and community support, which a supportive society wraps around its sick and dying members, is the alarming suggestion that its sick members may be better off dead.”
Mrs Box said competent palliative care assured patients and their loved ones that they would not be abandoned or left alone, that they would be provided with the best pain control and symptom management, and that palliative care doctors and nurses would never give up and walk away.
“More energy, funds and focus should be placed on the provision and improvement of our current palliative care system rather than enacting and supporting assisted dying,” she said.
“This is a strength-based, positive approach to those facing the end of life, rather than pushing to end a person’s life, which could be detrimental and harmful to the society as a whole.”
Mrs Box suggested a “flying squad” of professional palliative care staff could service country centres on a rotational basis.
CWL Queensland has proposed Federal Government funding should flow to the State Government, allowing health authorities to adequately provide end-of-life care.
Mrs Box described the palliative care delivered to her own husband as “very good”.
“In my husband’s case 12 years ago, I was so impressed with the care provided by the palliative care unit at Caloundra Hospital and Dove Cottage Hospice that I wrote to the Premier of the day, Hon Anna Bligh, extolling the excellence of the service,” she told the parliamentary inquiry.
“Family were involved all along the way, from when I was taught to administer injections and medication at home to when increasing pain necessitated his admission to the palliative care ward at Caloundra, where everyone, from the specialist doctors and nurses to the cleaners and the ladies who delivered the meals, were dedicated to the welfare of the patients.
“It was truly a culture of compassion and care.
“His last days in Dove Cottage, which provided accommodation for me alongside him, remain a positive memory for our family.
“This was not a pain-free time, but the pain was meticulously managed, and bearable.
“Family and our priest were able to visit at any time.
“My husband was able to spend time with each of his five children, and with several grand-children, which gave him great joy.
“He told them that he would soon be dying, but that he was not afraid.”