Monday, 27 July 2009

Alternatives to the Progression of Euthanasia

There is increasing evidence that requests for euthanasia come from patients whose sympotm control has been less than adequate, and these requests are very rarely sustained after good symptom control has been established. Often the demand arises out of fear of unbearable suffering. When it becomes apparent that this fear is unfounded and that relief will be available, the fear itself is allayed and the apparent need for euthanasia is diminished.

Hospice care and palliative medicine

Over the past three decades the Hospice Movement has led the way in improving the care of dying patients. This improvement has been achieved not only by in-patient units, but also, and more extensively, by the community of palliative care services provided by Macmillan Nurses and Marie Curie Nursing staff. The underlying philosophy of the movement has been the recognition of the importance of quality of life involving physical, emotional, psychosocial, intellectual and spiritual aspects of that quality.

Much of the development has been towards patients with advanced cancer, but the principles are just as appliclable to other conditions and the benefits should be available to all. Palliative care has tended to be sought by hospital as well as general practitioners, as a last resort, towards the end of the course of an illness but there is much to be said for earlier referral. The skills of palliative care require to be applied as an integral part of the management of the condition and should be considered much more often and applied at an earlier time if the greatest benefit in terms of quality of life is to be obtained.

Multi-disciplinary Caring

An integrated approach to the patient's problems is achieved best by a multi-disciplinary team which will involve medical, nursing, paramedical and other professional personnel, and the input of religions institutions is by no means irrelevant in this context. The hospital chaplain or minister may be an extremely important member of the team.

The principle challenge is to duplicate the hight standards of patient care and symptom relief as established in the field of cancer care, to influence the approach to the terminal stages of many other diseases.

Pain relief is a major issue in the quality of life.Pain relief has improved significantly even in the area of non-malignant pain which can be very debilitating and has proved more difficult to control. Pain control clinics while patchy in availability are making advances in methods and approaches to persistent pain.


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