Australia has only half the number of palliative care doctors needed to provide appropriate care for terminally ill patients, according to research carried out by the university-based PM Glynn Institute.
It is a recurring reality in countries where the push is on to introduce euthanasia – shifting the focus away from good quality palliative care and meeting the needs of chronically and terminally ill patients.
Tasmania is set to become the third state in Australia to legalise euthanasia after Western Australia and Victoria. MPs in Queensland are also set to vote on euthanasia legislation in the near future.
Dr Michael Casey, director of the PM Glynn Institute said: “We need to do more to ensure that everyone who needs good quality palliative care can access it, wherever they are and whatever their circumstances, before considering a momentous step like voluntary assisted dying.”
The author of the new study, Dr Cris Abbu, said more doctors and nurses need to be encouraged to choose to work in palliative care. “Palliative care remains one of the least preferred specialisations of medical students for future practice and the rates of full-time equivalent palliative medicine physicians and palliative care nurses have remained unchanged since 2013 despite the increasing demand,” she said.
The report recommends an active recruitment programme with student scholarships and government subsidies to train an additional 225 specialist doctors.