Nurse says better palliative care negates need for assisted dying

Palliative care nurse Lou Angus, of Scarborough. Photo: David Baylis d494905
Palliative care nurse Lou Angus, of Scarborough. Photo: David Baylis d494905

AS the voluntary assisted dying Bill hit State Parliament last week, a palliative care nurse was ramping up her fight against it.

Lou Angus has worked in palliative care for 30 years and believes if people with “life-limiting illness” had adequate access to it then voluntary assisted dying would not be needed.

The Scarborough resident works with people with terminal illness at St John of God Subiaco Hospital and is part of the WA Palliative Medicine Specialist Group.

“I’ve been dealing with patients and families who have been living in that dying space for my whole career,” she said.

“One or two people in my 30-year history have asked to die.

“Most people, in our experience, are clinging onto life.”

WA govt introduces assisted dying legislation

Ms Angus said many doctors did not know to refer patients to palliative care specialists or did so too late.

Their services included management of pain, breathing and gastrointestinal issues, providing patients with information about their health and helping them make informed decisions about treatment and their future.

The State Government recently announced an extra $41 million for palliative care services, bringing it to $206.2 million over the next four years, but Ms Angus said greater funding, awareness and specialist nurses were still needed.

“We are the most under-resourced State when it comes to palliative care specialists,” she said.

More Australians accessing palliative care

“They need to be asking for us. You’ve got nothing to lose.”

Dying with Dignity WA supporters pictured in Kings Park last week welcoming after greeting Belinda Teh at Kings Park in Perth. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Wainwright

Dying With Dignity WA campaign manager Dinny Laurence said the organisation, which is advocating for the Bill, “wholeheartedly support the best possible palliative care in WA”.

“We don’t really see it as a contest between voluntary assisted dying and palliative care,” she said.

Ms Laurence said palliative care “simply isn’t enough” for about 5 per cent of people at the end of their life.

“It’s for those people that we believe there should safe and compassionate access to voluntary assisted dying,” she said.

Liza Harvey shares importance of palliative care

The legislation is before WA Parliament and Ms Laurence said many MPs had not yet made up their minds how they would vote.

“We are feeling encouraged and quite hopeful but not by any means complacent,” she said.

“It’s possible people may change their minds right up until the vote.

“This is probably one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the WA parliament.”

More news