Hospice providers call for more funding as South Australia’s voluntary euthanasia bill is debated


Debate over euthanasia legislation will resume tomorrow in the South African Parliament, but palliative care providers say an effective program will only be successful if quality end-of-life care is equally available to all.

South Australia’s legislation is expected to be put to a final vote in parliament on June 9.

For Ray Wendelborn, the subject is close to home.

For 20 years, he has lived knowing that at any time, cancer cells could make their way from his prostate, through his blood and into his bones.

Now, as the 80-year-old sits hand-in-hand with his wife Sue, in hospice care in North Adelaide, he knows his time is running out.

Although he still has a sparkle in his eyes and a keen sense of humor, trials in cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and medication have worn him out.

“I feel lucky to have been gone for as long as I have been,” Mr. Wendelborn said.

“Nobody knows when the end is going to come, but we know it’s getting closer and closer, so if I’m here in six weeks I think I will have done really well.

“The cancer has gone to the bones and is now in the marrow, so the time is at hand.”

Although his failing health has resulted in a few recent hospital stays, he hopes to return home to spend his last precious weeks with family and friends.

“My body is going to science, so someone will benefit from it.

“It was probably the immunotherapy that failed me, so someone is going to benefit from this information.”

In a shared room in the Palliative Care Unit at Modbury Hospital in the north-eastern suburb of Adelaide, Mr Wendelborn’s bed occupies a prime position, with large windows offering panoramic views of the hills and the city.

The view and the staff looking after him distract him from the difficult road ahead.

Ray Wendelborn says he’s “lucky” for the time he’s had.(

ABC News: Rebecca Puddy

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“I only commented on a few of them today as they did the dirty work of cleaning me up this morning and said I guess you would have millions of praise for you, eh well now you’ve got a million and one, “he said.

Even though Mr. Wendelborn’s life is drawing to a close, he considers himself lucky, living in the “best country in the world” with children who have remained married and provided him with grandchildren.

Retiring from his post as post office manager in his mid-fifties after technological advancements grew too much meant he had precious time to spend with his family.

“I would say I had a great time and a lovely family,” he said.

“ Sometimes people slip into our hearts ”

Nurse consultant Valerie Hughes has worked in community palliative care for 13 years.

She’s down to earth when describing her daily work, but blinks when she talks about tough days.

The ones where she needs to find the courage to come back tomorrow and try again.

“We have the advantage that when we meet people we know that they are very sick, that they are not our family and that they are not our friends and that we know that it is a privilege. for us to take care of them. protective barrier for us, ”Ms. Hughes said.

Caring for patients and their families near death is complex.

And Western culture, which emphasizes preserving the appearance of youth, is ill-equipped to deal with the realities of life and death, she said.

A woman sitting behind a nursing station smiles for the camera
Nurse consultant for the North Adelaide Local Health Network, Valerie Hughes.(

ABC News: Brant Cumming

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“We live in a death-defying society where we are all very concerned about our youth, our form and our health… pretending that death does not come,” Ms. Hughes said.

“We have to pay attention to it because it is going to come to each of us.”

As death approaches, sometimes it is not the physical pain that causes the distress.

“There is more than just physical pain that affects us – we are a physical, emotional, mental, spiritual being and so it is not good to fill someone with pain reliever when it is not really pain. physical that’s the problem, ”she mentioned.

How people die is a big topic of conversation in South Australia, where proposed euthanasia laws are being debated in the South Australian Houses of Parliament for the seventeenth time.

She said that whatever happens, there is a continued need for investments in palliative care, especially paramedical care.

“A lot of times people say, ‘Why can’t we just end this now? Watch mom / dad / nanna suffer ”, and when we look at our patient who is really unconscious, lying peacefully, we have to ask ourselves who is suffering?

“If it’s the family member, we have to deal with this suffering, because if we think our patients are suffering, we will fix it.”

Strengthens palliative care with the adoption of laws on euthanasia

The Grattan Institute’s director of health and elderly care, Stephen Duckett, said palliative care was insufficient in Australia.

“People often confuse the two and say it’s one or the other, but they’re actually very different and what the political position should be is that people who need hospice care should be. be able to obtain palliative care wherever they live.

Nationally, the passage of euthanasia laws has resulted in increased funding for palliative care as a sweetener to pass the legislation through Parliament.

In its presentation to a parliamentary committee, Palliative Care South Australia argued that an effective assisted voluntary death program in the state, which included all legal and medical protections, would only be successful if quality palliative care were accessible to everyone.

In Victoria, where euthanasia was legalized on June 19, 2019, the government has committed an additional $ 62 million in palliative care over five years, primarily for people living in the regions.

Western Australia passed its voluntary assisted dying laws in December 2019, which are due to go into effect on July 1, with $ 41 million over four years included in the 2019-20 state budget for palliative care.

The Queensland Euthanasia Bill was introduced in Parliament today amid calls from the Australian Medical Association for a major increase in funding for palliative care, with warnings that the government’s current commitment to l The state of $ 28.5 million over four years is well below what is needed.


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