Motion calls for more attention to end-of-life care in communities


OUR SOCIETY does not pay sufficient attention to the welfare and good of those receiving end-of-life care, said Ronan Mullen (Ind) yesterday.

“Implicit sometimes in our thinking on this issue is the view that policy focus should centre on those with the majority of their lives ahead of them; that dying is a taboo subject better skirted around for the sake of avoiding awkwardness and offence; and that as people gradually lose memory, consciousness, bodily control and even hope, they also lose their dignity,” he said.

Mr Mullen was speaking in the debate on a Private Members Motion in the names of himself and Independent colleagues Feargal Quinn and Shane Ross, asking the House to call on the Government to allow people to die in their homes rather than in hospital, where that was their choice.

The motion also urged the allocation of resources to enable more people access comprehensive hospice services in their community and the ensuring national guidelines were operational in all acute and community hospitals to address all key end-of-life care issues.

Mr Mullen stressed that “dignity” in terms of end-of-life care should not, as some believed, depend on social status or physical capability. “Despite the intellectual attacks by Marx and Nietzsche, and against the attacks of the two world wars. Human dignity survived to become the central concept underpinning human rights law in the 20th century on both the international and constitutional levels.

“But the question before us is, how do we respond to human dignity in the context of end-of-life issues? A minimalist approach will not suffice.

“We must not settle for simple minimum care, such as the provision of nutrition and hydration; or minimum pain relief, such as the person never screams but always hurts; or minimum consultations, such as that occurs only after important decisions have been made on behalf of the patient and their family; or minimum compassion, such as treating the person as just another patient or medical case and not as someone going through a momentously spiritual and emotional stage of their life.”

Shane Ross (Ind) said he had been delighted to hear that the Wicklow hospice foundation had received a private donation of €1 million towards the foundation of a hospice. He felt that this and other donations should be matched by the HSE and the State.

Jerry Buttimer (FG) questioned why special advisers were being appointed for the Taoiseach and for several Ministers and Ministers of State. Why had these appointments being “buried” in the Seanad Order Paper. They might be legitimate appointments, but he wanted to know if these were additional appointments, and if there was an extra cost.