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Palliative Care Nurses have their heads in the sand

Palliative Care Nurses like ostriches with their heads in the sand

Medical aid in dying (MAID) is going to come and Palliative Care organisations in New Zealand need to start taking their heads out of the sand and join forces in establishing a good integrated system for end-of-life care to benefit terminally ill patients, retired intensive care specialist Dr Jack Havill, of Hamilton, said Monday.

“After all, 70-80% of New Zealanders want this type of end-of-life choice and patient views should start to take precedence over engrained concepts.”

Dr Havill, a committee member and former President of the End-of-Life Choice Society, said: “The innate value of life is likely to be enhanced where extensive suffering is avoided.

“Patients would benefit from synergy and integration between palliative and hospice care and MAID, but this can only occur with a major change in attitudes by some of the palliative care community.”

Dr Havill was responding to Jane Rollings, chair of the Palliative Care Nurses NZ organisation, who said in a statement Fridaythat nurses and doctors should not be involved in euthanasia.

Dr Havill recalled that 40 years ago, health professionals were making it very difficult for palliative care workers, saying they were not needed, and the workers were fighting to establish themselves along with hospices. “That was as a result of professional capture and a good deal of ignorance from the traditional providers of end of life care at that time.

“Now we are seeing the pattern reproduced and ignoring over 1000 submissions to the health select committee from relatives and friends about horrific deaths, many in hospice environments, leaving them in some cases with enormous regrets and nightmares. Some of those submissions were from experienced palliative care nurses and doctors.”

Dr Havill said the Palliative Care nurses departed from the more reasonable response of their parent organisation, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, which favours MAID and wants to make a forthcoming law as good as possible. “A large majority of nurses in NZ support that stance.”

He said the head-in-sand representatives would not even meet a Belgian expert researcher on the integration of MAID with Palliative Care, Professor Jan Bernheim, who visited New Zealand recently. He spoke about integration in Belgium, the second country to legalise medically assisted dying in 2001. “This is now taking place in Canada and is likely to occur in the Australian state of Victoria, which is expected to pass enlightened legislation this year.”


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