Sunday, July 25, 2010

Palliative Care

We don't have to remind our regular readers that one of our main topics in this blog is the increasing 'grayness' of New Zealand, that is, the proportion of our population that is elderly is increasing.   This is providing challenges for those in charge of infrastructures and social policy.

A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, entitled 'The Quality of Death' ranks New Zealand third out of 40 countries for our quality end-of-life (palliative) care.   (Palliative care means relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure.)    It says: It is no surprise to find countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand high in the overall ranking, given their relative wealth, advanced infrastructure and long recognition of the importance of developing national end-of-life healthcare strategies.

As the Maxim Institute notes: The report points out that palliative care makes financial sense, but perhaps more importantly, it challenges us to ask important questions about life and death.

They go on to say:
A doctor's job is, appropriately, to preserve life. But death is also a reality for every person, and must be faced. The "Quality of Death" report ranks various countries' performances in end-of-life care, using a few key indicators: public awareness about death; quality of care available; and cost and availability of that care. New Zealand comes in third behind the UK and Australia. Countries that rank particularly poorly tend to face the challenge of negative taboos or cultural perceptions about death that make palliative care very difficult. Some countries also are challenged by restrictions around the use of painkillers, resulting from concerns about drug trafficking and illicit use.

The remainder of the Maxim Institute's report is on their website and the full report (39 pages of pdf) is available online here.

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