Call for a national end of life strategy for Ireland

Categories: Policy.

The Forum on End of Life in Ireland is an initiative of the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) aimed at awareness raising, planning and promoting public debate on issues relating to death, dying and bereavement in Ireland. Last week the National Council of the Forum launched its action plan for 2013-2015, which included the commitment to lobby for an end of life care strategy.

Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the National Council, said: “Over the next three years, the Forum will be working to secure a commitment from government to develop a national strategy for end of life. We believe that the time has come for the state to look at all aspects of end of life in Ireland and to plan for the future delivery of care and services.

“The strategy should be wider than healthcare and reach into other relevant areas of life – economic, legal and administrative affairs. Death is a taboo issue. 

Sharon Foley, Chief Executive Officer of the IHF, added: “As a country, we need a national end of life and bereavement strategy to plan for what is inevitable, to ensure there is no absence of care, no ignorance of need and that we get end of life care right.”

Public engagement

The Forum is also calling on the government to bring in legislation to strengthen the patient’s voice in healthcare decisions.

Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness said: “The Forum is also committed to promoting more engagement and debate with the public on end of Iife issues. We know from our own consultation that people are very keen to have their say and make their preferences known particularly around end of life. The government made a commitment last March to introduce a provision for advance directives in the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Bill at committee stage. It is vital that they fulfill that pledge.”

Widening access

Commenting on the need to improve and expand services, Sharon Foley also said: “It is unacceptable that inequity remains throughout the country with some people able to access a full range of services and others – with equal need – denied this access. There is also a need for more supports for acute hospitals to deliver better end of life care and we need to put in place the necessary supports to help more people to fulfil their wish to die at home.”