Palliative Society to euthanasia inquiry

The inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a 8795 signature petition to Parliament after the death of Lecretia Seales, started hearing submissions today.

Dr Amanda Landers, chair of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, spoke to the inquiry today.

NZ Herald: Lecretia Seales’ husband makes emotional appeal to MPs about voluntary euthanasia

Dr Amanda Landers, chair of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine, said the assertion that palliative care does not work made no sense to her.

“Palliative care is not a pill…it is an approach. It’s someone asking you what is important to you, how you want your life to be now and to the end.”

Landers, a palliative care doctor and specialist, said she had personally seen the fear in people’s eyes fade as they come to terms with impending death. That could happen after long chats with palliative care staff, Landers said.

She acknowledged that some people “die terribly”. Medicine does not always know how to change approach and allow a natural death, Landers said.

The deaths of both of my parents were far from ideal, and not how they wanted to spend their last days in particular.

“It’s about acknowledging that death is normal…allowing nature to take its course…fear of the unknown is what people grapple with…people worry for their spouses, their children, their friends.

“The evidence shows that people who engage in palliative care early not only live better, they live longer.

“Do we want to be a country that cares, or not? For every person who is strong and capable who wants the choice, there are 100 people who will feel alone, lonely and a burden.

Green MP Kevin Hague asked why people should be denied a choice to die with assistance.

Landers said often “people don’t know their choices”. She had personally had lots of patients ask for help to die, and “almost everybody changes their mind in my experience”.

When told they can’t be helped legally?

Palliative care medical staff do a great job, but they have to rigorously abide by the law so can’t offer any choice of assisted death.

“But the person who doesn’t, shouldn’t have that option?” Hague asked.
“No, they shouldn’t,” Landers replied.

Landers questioned how it would be decided who was suffering enough to be eligible for assisted dying.

“Sixty per cent of New Zealanders had chronic pain…I assume that is suffering. I have had a hip operation, I’m suffering from chronic pain right now.”

National MP Jacqui Dean said there was a difference between pain from her dodgy knee and “someone crying out with pain in a hospital bed”.

Landers said she did not see such situations as a palliative doctor.

I wonder if she has sat with a dying person for days or weeks. When I did doctors only occasionally attended. They may not get a close up look at how people can suffer.

Both my parents suffered from discomfort and difficulties.

I arrived at the rest home hospital (that he vowed never to go to) to find my father in a very undignified situation the day before he died. Fortunately I found him just before visitors arrived see him. I told them he wasn’t in a fit state for visitors.

For about a week before she died my mother ate nothing and drank nothing. We had to keep dampening her mouth with a swab.

“I don’t see people crying out with pain in beds…I wish I could take you on one of my trips. It is not like that. And that is why it is so important you hear from us.”

My mother was often uncomfortable and in pain (until they came with more morphine in reaction) in a hospice. At once stage she haemorrhaged internally, that wasn’t nice to witness. We were then warned she may bring up some of that blood. Fortunately her death wasn’t messy (externally).

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12 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  24th August 2016

    The arrogance of this woman is offensive as is her misrepresentation. Death in a morphine coma is as unnatural as they come.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  24th August 2016

      Would you rather that someone die ‘naturally’ without the morphine ? They’re no longer suffering when they are on it. People are put into induced comas for many reasons. A young woman whom I knew was in one after her partner beat her almost to death. People are in them after car crashes.

      Why is it any less natural to die in ‘a morphine coma’ than another way ? I’d ratherdie like that than die in agony-and I’d rather that someone else’s last hours were like that than have them suffering unbearably. They’re dying anyway, being without the morphine isn’t going to prevent that. All it’s doing is making it easier for them.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  24th August 2016

        No, I would prefer honesty where morphine is simply used to preserve a facade of life where there is none in fact, or in sufficient dose to actually perform euthanasia while pretending not to.

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  24th August 2016

      whats your position Al…too hard basket for..moi.

      Reply
  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  24th August 2016

    I would be very surprised if palliative care doctors (or doctors with seriously ill patients) didn’t know what was going on or see the patients close up. In my recent experience with hospice-and with the hospital-there was plenty of medical care at all levels, and the discussions that I had showed that the doctors were very much in touch with what was happening.

    Jacqui Dean seems not to have been listening when she dismissed the pain from a hip operation as ‘a dodgy knee’. Chronic hip pain is extremely (sometimes excruciatingly) painful. as anyone who has lived with it or with someone who’s had it can witness. This doctor was not comparing terminal cancer to a ‘dodgy knee’.

    I don’t think that she meant that they changed their minds when they found out what they must have known already-that it was illegal. I took it to mean that they no longer wanted to be put out of their misery when they experienced palliative care.

    She freely said that some people died terribly.

    Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  24th August 2016

    I’m aware of two people who died appalling deaths under palliative care who wanted the right to die with dignity with medical assistance.

    I think it is really important to establish in every case whether those who are opposed to assisted suicide for the terminally ill are religious, because:
    1. They are notoriously intolerant of non-religious arguments for AS
    2. It would help other people to understand that their arguments against it have very likely been developed to distract from the likelihood their objection is most likely fundamentally on religious grounds
    3. It might help more people to understand that this is crap, & to abandon religion.

    Reply
  4. All parties should withdraw their members bills from the ballot and let Seymours bill be given a first reading, then a vote with no whips.

    I have watched my parents die from cancer. I spent 3 months giving increasing care to mum, eventual on a 24/7 basis before hospice took her in for respite care and she died 2 days in to that respite spell.

    A right to choose how you will die should be available to everyone. If it goes against your religious principles or you just want to fight to the very end – you don’t have to choose assisted dying.

    The key is the protections in any legislation – making sure no untoward pressure or societal expectation to choose assisted death can arise.

    Its not something I would like choose for myself – but my beliefs shouldn’t prevent others from having the option.

    The debate needs to happen and it needs to happen now… if all the major party leaders declared it a non party vote and allowed the debate to occur it would demonstrate true leadership by them. I am not holding my breathe

    Reply
  5. Blazer

     /  25th August 2016

    I did like Louise Wallaces opening line in the RHOA…’I made my money the old fashioned way…I inherited it’….it is quite common for people who recieved a legacy to imagine they …worked for it!

    Reply

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