Modern medicine is sometimes a victim of its own success. With a promise to cure, there is an ever-increasing demand to be cured at all costs, but in reality, medicine ultimately fails because death and dying is a certainty. When a cure is no longer a reality, the hope is that medicine will relieve suffering. This is particularly true in advanced illness or terminal illness.
We are fortunate to have excellent medical care in Australia and in particular, access to palliative care. Many people freak out about the thought of palliative care. They see this as ‘the beginning of the end’, but this is the wrong focus. The end eventually comes for us all, and it is at this time that we need specialised compassionate palliative care. Good palliative care should start at the beginning of the journey of an incurable illness and not at the end.
While we cannot prevent terminal illness and the reality of having to face death and dying, we can be proactive in the process and seek the best care available in these difficult circumstances. The best care is palliative care and eventually, at the end of a whole lot of ‘good-quality-life’, we get to the part of terminal care. We can then be confident that the care we have already received will continue as our life is ending.
We all have superheroes at some time in our life. These may be fantasy figures like Superman or Batman, or they may be real characters, like the surgeon who removes a rotting appendix. Our heroes may come in all shapes and forms and when it comes to the ‘end-of-life’ matters. These heroes will be the people who work in palliative care.
Palliative care affirms life, respects dignity and provides compassionate medical care. It provides a holistic and realistic view to life, death and terminal care. We have a lot of Palliative care resources and, where appropriate, we encourage an early visit to the palliative care team because they will be simply amazing. Please review our resources or visit episode 4 of Stickman’s adventures for more information.
There are important specific medico-legal matters that we all need to consider. One of these is an Advanced Health Directive. This is a document that clearly communicates our medical wishes for a time when we are unable to communicate. No one wants misfortune, but misfortune sometimes happens, and the magnitude of the misfortune is so much greater without these important documents.
Consider Terri Schiavo’s story and how you can prevent this happening to you or your loved ones.