Palliative medicine needs better PR people. Also a soul.


Per my last post on the topic, the palliative care lobby seriously need to take care that they don’t sound like a bunch of smarmy, controlling, judgey know-it-alls who get off on being such Angels of Mercy to their tragic, faceless-yet-persevering patients.

Step one would involve not issuing media release like this one, in which the Australia and NZ Society for Palliative Medicine pat themselves on the back for ignoring patients’ wishes and deciding they can judge the value, dignity and joy of a person’s life better than that person can.

ANZSPM recommends that a request for euthanasia or assisted suicide be acknowledged with respect and be extensively explored in order to understand, appropriately address and if possible remedy the underlying difficulties that gave rise to the request. Appropriate ongoing care consistent with the goals of Palliative Medicine should continue to be offered. ANZSPM recommends that when requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide arise, particular attention be given to gaining good symptom control, utilising the skills of a multidisciplinary team.

Shorter ANZSPM:  Patients don’t know what’s best for them, we do.  Patients can’t make choices about whether their symptoms are unbearable, we can (and symptoms are never actually unbearable).  Favourite bit:  “appropriately address and if possible remedy the underlying difficulties that gave rise to the request”.

Because you know, doctors in the palliative medicine arena frequently don’t actually provide the best treatment possible upfront – they need a patient to express a clear wish to die before they’ll actually “remedy” the “underlying difficulties” of dying slowly and painfully in a state which offers no comfort or dignity.

I mean, that’s the only logical interpretation of that statement, since acknowledging that sometimes some situations are so goddamn hard that you cannot fix them would be anathema to these loving, compassionate people.

And let’s not forget the pointless circular logic of the first paragraph:

the patients we care for with multiple sclerosis do not have their lives ended prematurely and do not request this.

Yes, because when your physician is a rabid “you’ll have a poignant long-suffering death and you’ll like it, peon” zealot, I’m sure they’re the one you’d turn to for help.  When they believe that the time you choose to die is by definition “premature” you’re totally going to make your life even worse by inciting a badgering, bullying lecture about how you need to harden up (oh, sorry, an interrogation extensive exploration of why you want to die, because as your doctor they can’t be expected to have a clue how you’re doing.)

As I said previously, if palliative care is the choice you make when dealing with illness, good for you.  We should have doctors who are willing to work in what is undoubtedly a stressful and emotionally draining environment to provide the best possible care to people.

We shouldn’t have doctors who are so up themselves that they think it’s morally okay to force someone to undergo suffering against their will – all because Doctor Knows Best.


  1. peterlepaysan

    Medics have serious problems.
    They are the people who rescue us from physical pain and distress.

    It does not occur to them that euthanasia does precisely that?
    Doctors are available for medical, not moral, advice.

    Doctors have no qualms about prescribing dangerous drugs or surgical procedures with life threatening (or worse life long disability and/or misery).

    It is much better to keep someone alive, in misery, than to let them go?

    It is time Paula Bennet, Judith Collins and Paula Rebstock took charge of this discussion.
    Once the incontrovertible fiscal and economic arguments were put up by that lovesome trio I am sure Bill (double dipton) English and our American prime minister could see enormous savings in the health budget. It could undertake a huge boost to the economy.

    I await the general election with a party rallying cry “EUTHANASIA FOR ALL!”

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