HON NICK GOIRAN (South Metropolitan) [ 10.05 am ]: I move —
That this council —
(a) recognises that this is National Palliative Care Week;
(b) acknowledges the ongoing efforts of Palliative Care Australia and Palliative Care WA;
(c) notes this year’s theme is “You matter, your care matters. Palliative Care can make a difference”; and
(d) calls on the state Labor government to build on the momentum created by the former Liberal – National government with particular emphasis on —
(i) raising awareness and understanding about palliative care throughout the community, including amongst health professionals; and
(ii) increasing accessibility to palliative care, especially in regional Western Australia.
[speeches and comments of various members]
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [ 10.54 am ]: I rise to also indicate my support for the motion that has been put forward by Hon Nick Goiran and to express my support for the timing of this motion considering that it is National Palliative Care Week. I am also pleased to hear that there seems to be unanimous support within this chamber for this motion. That is as it should be. I will make the observation that I have been exposed to thinking — really wrong-headed thinking in my opinion — that opposes the use of palliative care. More specifically, it has been suggested to me in the past that palliative care is wrong because it interferes with God’s will that people need to suffer as Jesus suffered. I say that because I see this as a disturbingly misguided interpretation of the Scriptures and utterly lacking in any understanding of compassion, but I wanted to bring to the attention of this house just how disturbed some extremist views can be in this space. I am really pleased that those sorts of misguided views do not seem to be shared here, and that there is a very important and shared understanding of the need for palliative care.
I have had two experiences with loved ones who have required palliative care. The first was my grandfather, who died of cancer, who received palliative care at the St John of God Murdoch Community Hospice. Unfortunately, for the last six weeks of his life he suffered enormously. That was greatly distressing for not only him but also the family. The other experience I have had was this year with one of my best friends, who died of cancer relatively quickly. He received palliative care at home. I have to say that it was as good a death as I think one can get. He was surrounded by loved ones; it was handled absolutely beautifully by the Silver Chain staff who were there, and his young child was involved through that process and was held and cared for. It was an example, I think, of what we hope to strive for here in terms of the delivery of palliative care. Although it was incredibly heartbreaking, he was genuinely held in love as he passed away. I certainly acknowledge that we have ever-improving palliative care standards and I am hoping that as technology goes on, we will get to utilise it more and more, because the experience of a good death is not just for the person who is dying but for all the people who are around that person when they die as well. It is the desire, more often than not, that people want to be able to die in their own homes.
I am also going to have a bit of a shout out to the palliative care nurses. When I was an industrial officer with the Australian Nursing Federation I remember negotiating on behalf of palliative care nurses. A tougher bunch of people would be hard to meet. I think that take-no-prisoners, no-nonsense attitude comes with people who work in the area of life and death. These are people who really had an idea of what was important and what was not. They are incredibly strong people. My huge gratitude goes to them for the sort of work that they do. But we always need more services. We have heard today particularly about the need for Aboriginal people to be able to die on country, and we have heard about the need to ensure that people in regional areas are not denied the opportunity for appropriate palliative care as well. We want to ensure that when people seek options, for example, around early death through euthanasia, this is never done because of a lack of services. For me, that is the ultimate travesty. Nobody should ever be driven to the point of wanting to hasten their death simply because resources have not been made available and they feel as though they have no other option.
I thank Hon Nick Goiran for raising the issue of demoralisation. I think it is a really misunderstood or little-known element around the intersection with the desire to die and needs further exploration. I hope it is something that we will explore more in this chamber within a range of debates. It is important to distinguish between demoralisation and depression. Although it is not related to palliative care, I would also like to draw this chamber’s attention to the level of demoralisation that is often felt by people with disability who may feel as though they need or want to die simply because of a lack of services or because they have been left to feel as though their life is worthless or that they are a burden. That is a great travesty and it is something that we need to talk more about. The issue of demoralisation as opposed to depression as a mental illness is a really underexplored area and one that we need to get our heads around further.
If people are avoiding appropriate palliative care and are looking for other solutions to die because they do not understand the nature of pain management — they fear it or are worried about addiction, as Hon Nick Goiran pointed out as an example — or there is just sheer uncertainty about what is likely to come, that is a problem. I hope members will support this motion. We will all ultimately die. We do not know when that will be and, ordinarily, we do not know the circumstances by which we will die. One thing I hope is that the best type of death we can have is one in which we are able to be surrounded by our loved ones and to be as pain free as possible. Ensuring an appropriate investment in palliative care services is an important part of how we can ensure that this occurs.
Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.