More fo­cus on pal­lia­tive care needed in med­i­cal train­ing

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By ROSE CAW­LEY

HEALTHY dy­ing.

It is not a para­dox, it’s an ideal says doc­tor, re­searcher and teacher Rod MacLeod.

He was made a Mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit in the 2015 Queen’s birth­day honours for his con­tri­bu­tions to hospice and pal­lia­tive care.

MacLeod, 63, says he has yet to come across a pa­tient he thought would be ‘‘bet­ter off dead’’.

‘‘Peo­ple who

are

dy­ing have taught me there is an enor­mous ca­pac­ity for dig­nity, courage and grace,’’ he says.

‘‘I can un­der­stand why peo­ple are fright­ened but if they let a pal­lia­tive care team help them then they will re­alise that they are not alone.’’

MacLeod sub­mit­ted an af­fi­davit at the high-pro­file case of ter­mi­nally-ill lawyer Le­cre­tia Seales who is ask­ing the High Court to let her die on her own terms.

He says the fear of los­ing dig­nity weighs heav­ily on peo­ple.

‘‘But that is a sad re­flec­tion on the health sys­tem which per­haps doesn’t treat peo­ple in as dig­ni­fied way as it could.’’

The Bri­tish na­tive has worked at hospices and lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties na­tion­wide and now com­mutes from St Mary’s Bay to Syd­ney Uni­ver­sity.

Pal­lia­tive care isn’t given the re­spect it de­serves within med­i­cal train­ing in New Zealand, MacLeod says.

‘‘Stu­dents learn all about car­di­ol­ogy, surgery, ob­stet­rics but they don’t have to learn about pal­lia­tive care in any depth.

‘‘Yet look­ing af­ter peo­ple who are dy­ing is the one thing that ev­ery sin­gle med­i­cal stu­dent will have to deal with when they grad­u­ate.’’

MacLeod says his ex­pe­ri­ence as a bright-eyed gen­eral prac­ti­tioner in ru­ral Eng­land in­spired his ca­reer.

‘‘There was one man, Roy, and his wife, Milly.

‘‘Roy was dy­ing of lung can­cer but very slowly.

‘‘It was watch­ing Milly care for Roy and be­ing part of that helped me un­der­stand what was pos­si­ble.’’

He says deal­ing with ‘‘raw and ex­posed’’ pa­tients has left its mark.

‘‘I see the world slightly dif­fer­ent to most other peo­ple.

‘‘I am ex­posed to a lot of sad­ness but I am also ex­posed to a lot of joy. See­ing fam­i­lies unite and pro­vide love and sup­port is very spe­cial.’’

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