Registered Nurse: Some patients do suffer in the end

Registered Nurse: Some patients do suffer in the end

By Tara Nipe, a registered nurse, nursing academic, and Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Vic) project officer.

The overwhelming majority of patients die well: without pain or agitation, with loved ones present or recently visited. But as even experts in the field acknowledge, a tiny number of people – perhaps 5 per cent of the dying – suffer despite even the best care from specialist nurses and doctors.

The first person I saw die was a woman in her mid-50s, deep yellow from liver failure,….On the morning of the seventh day, it became evident Natasha wouldn’t improve…..I watched her violently retch, and die, then comforted her distraught adult children as best I could. That was 28 years ago this month. It has been my privilege and honour to care for hundreds of dying people in my nursing career, and the majority died well. But those patients who suffered until the end, despite the resources a skilled palliative care team at a major Melbourne hospital can provide, stay with me.

Of course, expert, skilled, well-resourced palliative care is the best option, for almost everyone with a dying trajectory. Assisted dying is not an alternative to that, it’s another route for those few people who continue to suffer despite palliative care’s best efforts. Improved awareness, knowledge, funding, and access to end of life services have improved everywhere that assisted dying is legalised precisely because it makes conversations about patients’ fears easier.

Click for article in The Age 2 September 2017 ‘While the majority of patients die ‘well’, some do suffer in the end’

The video below was made by Go Gentle Australia in August 2016. Nurse Anne Maxwell speaks candidly about treating patients at the end of life