Health Minister Brad Hazzard seeks advice from palliative care specialists

April 26, 2017

The young man was breathless, distressed and in pain when he presented at the emergency department of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

He had been in treatment for bone cancer and though his condition had not significantly improved, he expected it would soon turn around with immunotherapy.


More than 70 per cent of Australians say they would prefer to die at home.  

Nobody told him how close he stood to the void.

By the time palliative care director Maria Cigolini met him in emergency, he was gasping for life.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard wants to improve access to palliative care. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

It was up to her to tell him he was dying and prepare him for the event three weeks later.

"He was not expecting that he was actually dying because it was never discussed with him," Dr Cigolini said.


"Most specialists in other disciplines, their role is to keep people alive and try to cure them as much as possible and that creates a different type of conversation with patients.

"Especially with young people, it's a highly charged area. They don't have a structure to offer other things to that patient and they feel like they're giving up if they don't offer treatment."

Research shows palliative care not only makes the last months of life more comfortable, it can also prolong life by reducing depression and anxiety and reduce costs by keeping patients out of hospital longer.

Palliative care improves the quality of life for patients with life-threatening illness by providing relief from pain and other symptoms, and intends neither to hasten nor postpone death.

But palliative care doctors say they are often not involved in the care of patients until their final days or hours, by which time many have pursued costly treatments with wretched side effects.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard is seeking advice from the industry through a series of community forums to improve access to palliative care.



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