More focus on palliative care needed in medical training
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’’.
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.’’