A Tauranga doctor says palliative care, not euthanasia, is the better option for patients, family, friends and doctors of cancer sufferers.
Waipuna Hospice chief executive Dr Richard Thurlow says palliative care has improved greatly in the past seven years, and legalising euthanasia could cut short people’s lives who are not aware they have another option.
“In the last seven years the actual level and availability of palliative care in New Zealand has improved dramatically, we’ve seen our service grow dramatically since 2002 in Tauranga alone.”
In the past year Waipuna Hospice had 517 new referrals and treated 217 patients in the past month – up from the average 140 each month in previous years.
As well as medical treatment, palliative care also involves psychological, emotional and spiritual care, designed to ease suffering and provide a “good death”.
Richard’s comments follow Prime Minister John Key’s admission that if he was terminally ill, he would consider euthanasia.
“If I had terminal cancer, I had a few weeks to live, I was in tremendous amount of pain - if they just effectively wanted to turn off the switch and legalise that by legalising euthanasia, I’d want that," he told Newstalk ZB last week.
But Richard says euthanasia is not the answer and could be detrimental to family and friends left behind, who could suffer great amounts of guilt and grief.
“There’s a side to the debate that’s not been had yet; that’s the long term effects on the family members.
“There’s a ripple effect when someone dies.
“What we’re trying to do within palliative care is provide a good death; that the patient is well catered for and their wishes are honoured, and the family and friends are carried.”
He also says it’s not fair on the doctors and would mess with the patient/doctor trust.
“It’s not something that should reside within the medical profession.”
Richard says the next step in not legalising euthanasia, but looking at growing palliative care with further funding and greater community awareness.
“Our level of profile within the community is good, but it can always be better.
“Don’t spend the rest of your life dying, spend it living.”