Dear Editor,

We wish to respond to the article, Comprehensive end of life care needed, by Dr Derek Eng and Ms Louise Angus, in the November edition of Medical Forum.

They say that ‘now more than ever, palliative care needs our full support and to be understood.’ 

Yet, with the many recent debates, palliative care has had a great deal of attention and received additional government funding.

The statement that the WA palliative care workforce is inadequate should be put in perspective. Australia ranked second out of 80 countries surveyed by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Death Index 2015, which focuses on the quality and availability of palliative care to adults. In terms of the availability of appropriately trained staff to provide palliative care in hospitals or in the community, Australia ranked first, and in terms of affordability of palliative care, it ranked equal first.

Repeated use of the terms Physician Assisted Suicide and Active Voluntary Euthanasia is provocative, as these are not terms currently used. The WA VAD legislation itself states that VAD is not suicide. 

When stating that palliative care does not deliberately hasten the process of dying, does that apply to all cases? After all, palliative care deals with some patients who would suffer badly in the absence of medication referred to as terminal sedation.

It is also wrong to suggest that dying patients can access VAD more easily than palliative care. 

VAD is supported by a sizeable majority and is now law. It is a matter of choice for the patient. It is good that the authors do accept their duty to refer patients in accordance with the law.

Dr Peter Beahan,
retired anaesthetist

Dr Richard Lugg,
retired public health physician, convenor Doctors for Assisted Dying Choice WA