DISCOUNT DISPOSALS : A Carer’s Perception of Palliative Care at an Australian Public Health Service

Palliative Care doctors hoover around hospital corridors like a pack of vultures ready to swoop on misfortune. It’s their job to reduce the burden of cost.

“Mr Hope you’ll have to change your name. The health system can’t afford hope. Doctor Know-it-all has met with his infallible team and they have concluded that your cancer will almost certainly return. No use wasting time, the sooner we organise a smooth exit the better, and the cheaper.”

Don’t worry about those diabetic tablets and don’t stress about your diet. We know your wishes and we’ll see to it that you exit as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Just relax, we’ll ensure that all your wishes are followed. You’ll wish to die at home. Everyone does. It’s your place of choice. It’s not a time to be selfish. You wouldn’t wish to burden the system. We may be able to send a carer occasionally for a few minutes to help you get to the bathroom.

If you get sick, you don’t need to worry. It doesn’t matter, you’re not important. Don’t come to the hospital. You will not be welcome. If you do come, we will not see your pain. We will not see what can be fixed or what can be treated. We will only see what can’t be done, and fear the cost if you don’t co-operate and exit quickly.

If you are admitted, we’ll transfer you to Hospital X as you’d wish to be there. We can even manage to arrange the transfer without telling you. You would not wish to be informed. You would not like us to burden you with the details of your health care. We understand your wishes.

Hospital X does not have staff or facilities to treat illness but it is a vulture’s paradise. You would be happy there. You would be out of sight. We would be happy knowing that you were doing your part to help the health system look dignified.

We know that you have pain, but really you must understand that you can’t expect to see a doctor. We don’t have resources. Please remember that you are not important. We have a brand new intern, she will try to see you next week. Remember how lucky you are to have our service.

When you part from us, Dr Know-it-all will smile and cross you off his list of faceless patients who he has never set eyes on. He knows that one day, he too will die but for now he takes comfort in his confidence that he will never have to rely on the public health system or it’s arrangement with Hospital X.”



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