Most want to spend final days at home
THE overwhelming majority of Irish people want to spend the final weeks of their life at home if they are diagnosed with a terminal illness.
The revelation came as a landmark Irish hospice conference heard that key issues now faced the palliative care sector, ranging from demands for the legalisation of euthanasia to legal issues surrounding a terminally ill patient's right to choose or decline treatments to prolong their life.
The conference -- organised by the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) -- outlined a new ethical framework within which Ireland's hospice sector would be developed.
The framework is the outcome of an historic collaboration between University College Cork, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Irish Hospice Foundation with contributions from experts across a variety of fields.
IHF chief executive, Eugene Murray, warned that it would now be "incredulous" to deny any person access to the best possible care available.
"As society is being asked to consider the legalisation of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients with intractable pain, it would be incredulous to deny any citizen access to the best symptom control at end of life," he said.
"Until society delivers a consistent level of hospice services, providing holistic care for physical, emotional, social and spiritual pain, we will not be able to truly claim that we are providing appropriate care for the dying."
The conference heard that 67pc of Irish people wanted to spend their final days at home.
Some 82pc of patients said that, if seriously ill with no hope of recovery, quality of life would be more important than duration while 72pc said they feared helplessness and dependency more than death.
The conference was also told that the provision of palliative care for the dying was not a black-and-white issue.
UCC School of Nursing director, Dr Joan McCarthy, stressed that those involved in palliative care faced ethical challenges every day.
"Ethics concerns everyone. The ethical framework promoted moral progress more than moral truth," she added.
IHF chairman, Michael O'Reilly, warned that those involved in the sector must now be prepared to "robustly challenge" demands for economies and healthcare reconfiguration if it impacted on the care provided.