Busting palliative care pain myths

With the recent debate in the media about death and dying, you may have heard euthanasia advocates arguing that palliative care is unable to provide adequate pain relief for some of its patients. Senior Professor Kathy Eagar, Director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute, has recently gone on the record to refute this.

” I think the biggest myth is that the reason that people elect euthanasia is because they have unbearable pain that palliative care can’t control, and that they are left with no choice but to elect voluntary euthanasia, and that’s just not what the evidence says at all.

“The evidence says that pain is not in the top five reasons that people elect, that internationally people are electing euthanasia or voluntary assisted dying because of a lack of independence and autonomy, because they can’t enjoy the things in life that they used to, a loss of dignity, and also that they are concerned about being a burden on their family and friends.”

Conducting several radio interviews and co-authoring an interesting article in The Conversation, No, most people aren’t in severe pain when they die she cites recent research conducted by the Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC) which states that for the great majority who receive palliative care, it is highly effective,

“Our evidence in Australia is that our palliative care is second to none in the world internationally, and only about 2% of people are in severe pain in the period immediately up until their death, if they are receiving specialist palliative care.

Last November, Professor Eagar spoke at the 2017 Professor Alan Owen Lecture at the University of Wollongong. The lecture was entitled, ‘Choices at end of life: palliative care, euthanasia and other end of life decisions’ and it explored issues involved with decision making at end of life.You can find the entire 2017 Professor Alan Owen Lecture featuring Professor Kathy Eagar as Speaker by clicking here.