Palliative care report makes an impact

The PM Glynn Institute’s report A Snapshot of Palliative Care Services in Australia was published at the end of 2020 and officially launched in February this year with a series of five podcast about palliative care and the report’s findings. It has proven to be a significant contribution to public discussion about palliative and end-of-life care.

The report attracted national and international attention in Catholic and mainstream media at its launch, with articles being published or republished in outlets with significant audience reach including Crux and The Canberra Times. Coverage also included an interview with the report’s author, Dr Cris Abbu, and paediatric palliative care specialist Dr Anthony Herbert on ABC radio in Brisbane in a peak listening period. Media monitoring company Meltwater estimated that coverage of the report had a potential reach of 2-to-2.8 million people at peak times in late February and early March.

The report has also been picked up in policy and parliamentary discussions. Catholic Health Australia cited the report in its submission to the University of Tasmania’s Independent Review of the End-of-Life Choices (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill 2020 for the Tasmanian Parliament earlier in the year; and in May Dr Abbu made a presentation on the report’s findings and recommendations to MPs in the Parliamentary Friends of Palliative Care group in the New South Wales Parliament. The Institute has also offered to present the report’s findings to the Parliamentary Friends of Palliative Care group in the Commonwealth Parliament.

On 24 May Julian Leeser MP quoted the report and cited its findings in a debate in the Commonwealth Parliament on the laws which prohibit the territories from enacting euthanasia laws. He said:

There was a very good, but not heralded enough, publication that came out from the PM Glynn Institute of the Australian Catholic University recently called A snapshot of palliative care services in Australia. Its author Dr Cris Abbu found a number of key things. First, the number of people being hospitalised for palliative care is growing at an average rate of five per cent a year, and services are not keeping pace. Second, the rate of palliative care hospitalisations for children under 15 has increased by more than 10 per cent annually since 2012-13, but palliative care is not a well-regarded specialty that students are choosing to go into. And, third, models of palliative care that give people not just the chance to experience end-of-life care in hospitals, but to do so in homes, are not well advanced enough in this country . . .

Mr Leeser’s speech was subsequently discussed in a major article by Paul Kelly in The Australian on 29 May, examining the drive to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia in Australia and what it means for the community. Kelly quoted Leeser’s reference to the report’s findings about the growth in palliative care hospitalisations and the need to do more on end-of-life care at home. He also echoed a point made in the foreword to the report, commenting that “If people were serious about human choice they would demand better palliative care”, highlighting the bizarre situation where a “right to die” is being legislated “while the right to palliative care is yet to be fully extended”.

The Institute’s work on palliative and end-of-life care is continuing through the publication in of our occasional paper Speaking of Suffering: Towards a conversation about death and dying, and a project looking at Indigenous attitudes to euthanasia and care for the dying. The Institute also hopes to publish a collection of contributions from a wide range of people making the case for better palliative care over euthanasia.


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