A report suggesting that more than half of Irish adults don’t fully understand what end-of-life palliative care involves is probably accurate, Bishop Kevin Doran has said.
The Bishop of Elphin’s comments followed an announcement by the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care that more than half of those surveyed admit to having at best a basic level of understanding of what palliative care involves.
The survey of 1000 adults found that 27% said they had a basic understanding of palliative care, 12% said they had a low level of understanding, and 16% said they had no understanding of palliative care.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Dr Doran said, “It’s probably quite correct to say that a lot of people including doctors and nurses sometimes don’t quite understand what palliative care means.
“It’s not all about just letting people die. It’s not all about a particular kind of medication,” Dr Doran continued. “A lot of it’s about the kind of atmosphere that we create for people where they know that they’re cared for; even when there’s nothing that can be done for them medically, they will be respected and valued as members of the human family – people will listen to them and respond to their human cares.”
Dr Regina McQuillan of Beaumont Hospital and St Francis’ Hospice, Raheny, agreed that low levels of awareness were probably to be expected since, “people tend not to think about different types of healthcare until they need it – if they don’t need it, it might not be on their mind at all”.
Pointing out that palliative care is not merely for those who are close to death or severely suffering, and that most palliative care is delivered in people’s homes rather than in hospices, she told The Irish Catholic that palliative care can improve quality of life for many, and can help people have a dignified ‘good death’.
“‘Death with dignity’ has basically been a phrase that’s been hijacked by the assisted dying movement,” she said.
Trinity College Dublin’s Professor Des O’Neill stressed that the survey ought not to be read as raising concerns about Ireland’s palliative care facilities.
“It’s probably important to reassure people that most people die with reported high levels of dignity, that palliative care is broadly available in Ireland, and that it’s available in the community and in hospitals.”