Push for more Qld palliative care funding

Queensland doctors want a major boost in funding for palliative care from the state government.
Queensland doctors want a major boost in funding for palliative care from the state government.

Most terminally ill patients who choose to "take poison" and die only do so because palliative care is so inadequate, Queensland doctors say.

The Australian Medical Association Queensland and Palliative Care Queensland are calling for a major boost in state funding for end of life care as a voluntary assisted dying bill is tabled in parliament this week.

The Queensland government will invest almost $150 million a year in palliative care over four years, but both groups say that's well short of the $272 million needed annually to deliver adequate care.

AMAQ president Chris Perry doubts any patient would choose voluntary euthanasia if they had access to proper palliative care.

"Palliative care physicians can keep people very, very comfortable, and they can go when it's meant for them to go, rather than feeling: 'I'm so abandoned, I'm gonna take this poison' and believe it," Dr Perry told reporters.

"So it's not the right way to treat human beings. We should be treating human beings as we'd like to be treated, with dignity and respect."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will introduce a voluntary-assisted dying bill into state parliament this week.

Labor government MPs and Liberal National Party MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on the proposed legislation.

The Greens and independent MP Sandy Bolton support it, while One Nation MP Stephen Andrew is yet to make a decision.

The three Katter's Australian Party MPs will oppose the bill.

Under the bill, patients must have either a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and will cause death.

Their condition must be expected to cause their death within 12 months and it must be causing suffering that is "intolerable".

Dr Perry said there was a false perception that voluntary assisted dying was the only way to help patients avoid suffering.

Real palliative care ensured that patients had adequate painkillers, he said.

Dr Perry said most voluntary-assisted dying candidates in jurisdictions like Victoria, Oregon and Canada did so due to feeling trapped or incapacitated.

Palliative care should help terminally ill people feel supported, he said, rather than feeling helpless or a burden.

"You don't want people being feeling hopeless, and being neglected, not being well cared for, and ending up taking a drink which will result in them dying in 20 to 30 minutes," he said.

"People want to go out at their own time, in their own choosing, surrounded by their family in a good, peaceful situation."

Palliative Care Queensland chief executive Syla Mills said increased funding would allow patients to remain in their homes for end of life treatment.

She said the voluntary assisted dying bill would allow patients to access euthanasia for the last 12 months of life, whereas palliative care is only funded for the final three months.

"That's quite a big discrepancy that needs to be considered, and with the current funding it's just not possible," Ms Mills told reporters.

Australian Associated Press