New Zealand palliative care grossly underfunded

Published on 13th Aug, 2022

Published in WelCom August 2022

The Ministry of Health has six full-time positions dedicated to ‘assisted dying’ but no team dedicated to palliative care.

‘Proponents of the End of Life Choice Act promoted its introduction as being all about choice,’ says Dr John Kleinsman, Director of the Nathaniel Centre for Bioethics. ‘But it’s a “Claytons’ choice” if palliative care is not widely accessible.’

Dr Kleinsman was commenting on the first Health Ministry report of data collected on people who sought euthanasia between the End of Life Choice Act taking effect last 7 November and 30 June 2022.

The data showed 400 people applied for ‘assisted dying’, of whom 143 had an ‘assisted death’, 153 did not continue the process and 101 were still in the process of assessment or preparation for euthanasia.

New Zealand’s Catholic bishops strongly opposed the euthanasia law, saying demand would be driven not by pain but by people worried they would be a burden on others. They supported the strengthening of palliative care to help people who faced dying in great pain.

‘An action plan for palliative care was developed after a review in 2017, but many health practitioners working in that sector are not seeing any action,’ Dr Kleinsman said.

‘End-of-life “choice” was heavily weighted in favour of “assisted dying”, because of the increasing demands on New Zealand’s underfunded palliative care sector,’ he said.

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