MOTION: Palliative Care Week

Today Mark spoke in support of the motion to recognise Palliative Care Week.


I rise to support the motion, and I congratulate the Hon. Frank Pangallo for putting it on the agenda. It is an important issue. It is an issue we do not talk about enough and we should talk about more. It can be very uncomfortable for people to talk with family and friends about end-of-life decisions, but if we are going to do the best we can for people in the community who are dying, which is going to be all of us eventually, then we need to have those conversations and, most importantly, we need to have resources in place to give people the best possible care in that difficult end-of-life period.

I met with Palliative Care SA back in February, in the lead-up to the state election, and they presented a great deal of information, some of which is very similar to what the Hon. Frank Pangallo has put on the Notice Paper in terms of the wording of his motion. What Palliative Care SA remind us is that three out of four South Australians are not getting the care they need at the end of their lives. Given that 13,337 people died in 2016—and the numbers would be similar in other years—that is a lot of people who are not getting the care and the services they need.

Also, as I was hunting through my paperwork in preparation for this debate today, I noted that many of us in state parliament, and certainly I on behalf of the Greens, signed the palliative care funding pledge, promising on behalf of our party to support $24.5 million dollars of funding for palliative care. I note that the honourable member's motion calls on the federal government to take certain steps and to make it a priority. I understand exactly why he has done that: that is where the bulk of the funds are. They are with the federal government, and they have a lot of responsibility in this area, but the state too needs to make sure that palliative care is a priority.

The only other thing that I would say very briefly is that often in this debate there is a furphy trotted out to say that there is some form of competition between palliative care and voluntary euthanasia. I want to put on the record again that there is no such dichotomy. The vast bulk of people want to live as long as they can, they want to live as well as they can and they want to have a death that is as dignified and pain-free as it can be.

Given the thousands of South Australians who are going to die every year and who should be entitled to the best possible palliative care, the people for whom voluntary euthanasia might be available are just a drop in the bucket. It is a handful of people who would meet that very strict test of dying from an incurable condition with unbearable suffering that not even palliative care can alleviate. There is no conflict; in my view, we need to support both initiatives.

Certainly, the vast bulk of South Australians want improvement in palliative care options and improvement in funding to allow the bulk of people to die at home. That is what 70 per cent of us say we want, yet only 14 per cent of people get the chance to do that, largely because there is not the palliative care in-home services available. With those brief words, I congratulate the honourable member for putting this on the agenda and fully support the motion.