Palliative care is care of the dying. Medically speaking the focus is relieving pain and improving quality of life. But palliative care also refers to a broad range of practices which attend to the social, psychological and spiritual needs of a person facing death. In many ways, good palliative care is the alternative to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and it is this alternative that many Christians choose to promote.
Rather than offer the possibility for people to end their life prematurely, palliative care focuses on caring for the person as best as they can in the lead up to death, or when managing an ongoing illness. Whereas some want to divert time, energy and resources toward making euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide available, many Christians argue that these would be better used in improving our ability in palliative care.
Many chaplains testify to the fact that facing one's own death can indeed be a spiritually fruitful time. Often family and friends are drawn closer. Sometimes there can be opportunities to make peace in conflicted relationships. Facing death can be a time where one gains perspective and can reflect on what has been important in life. The time when one faces death can be a God-given opportunity to return to him and put one's trust in Christ.
We also need to be realistic about the limitations of palliative care. There may be situations where people's pain cannot be completely managed and the suffering can seem intolerable. In such cases, palliative sedation might be considered, along with every other effort to provide truly compassionate care which honours the dignity of the human person to the very end.
- Palliative Care Australia
- The Art of Dying Well
- The Joint Statement on Palliative Care, Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide by Australian palliative care practitioners from MJA InSight 10, 20 March 2017