Palliative Care: Breaking the golden thread

We are lucky to live in the 21st Century. Curing and prevention of disease and prolongation of life are achievable. We look to medicine to save our lives and to live longer.

The consequence, however, is that the community expects this, even demands this. And if it is not available they are terrified.

What is it that they are terrified of? Dying badly, dying without control.

People often ask me why I chose Palliative Care as my medical specialty. I was drawn to this area of death and dying when I was a medical student, even before it was recognized as a specialty in Australia. Palliative care had certainly been practiced in hospices and hospitals for decades but it was not mainstream medicine or a discipline of its own.

Even as a student I saw that people at the end of life were not adequately cared for, their dying was often not diagnosed, and distressingly they were avoided by doctors if they did not know how to care for them. When the rest of medicine was rapidly moving forward, the dying were often neglected. Their suffering was not a priority.

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