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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 February 2016) . . Page.. 521 ..

to a cause that she believes in so passionately. I too believe, as Ms Porter has stated, that it is time for the conversation on end-of-life issues. The time for that conversation is now. The way we care for people who are dying is indeed important. It affords them dignity that in some circumstances they may feel they have lost. It allows for individuals to be at the front and centre of the decisions that they are making and to have a sense of control over a situation in which they would otherwise feel completely powerless.

Following the end-of-life forums Ms Porter hosted last year, it is very clear from the conversations that took place that people certainly do have a view on the end-of-life experience. Whilst I recognise that this subject can be polarising for some, it is important to recognise the voices of those who shared their experiences on the issue, indeed some of whom are facing their own end-of-life concerns.

As Ms Porter has said, the forum had three key questions. Some of the strong themes that came through during the discussions around these questions were that people do want to die peacefully, painlessly and with dignity. They want the ability to do this without the risk of prosecution and without the interference of technology. They want there to be greater education and awareness of end-of-life issues. There is a desire to see legislation that provides protections for individual liberty and autonomy.

The World Health Organisation has defined palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and assessment and treatment of pain and other problems. Good care that encompasses the cultural, spiritual and psychosocial needs of patients, their families and carers in the last days, weeks and months of life can assist in minimising the distress and grief associated with death and dying. It can indeed provide a level of comfort not only to the individual but also to their loved ones in knowing they are not needlessly suffering.

Presently, hospitals and hospices provide end-of-life care to the majority of people who die in Australia but, as we know, and particularly here in the ACT, the population is ageing. As the proportion of older Australians grows, it is likely that the number of people requiring end-of-life care in hospitals will continue to rise. But it is also possible that the interest in having palliative care in the family home will also increase.

The safety and quality of end-of-life care has important implications for the people who receive care, those involved in providing that care, and for society as a whole. Potentially preventable physical, emotional and spiritual distress can occur if the care provided is less than optimal, and there are significant cost implications for society if unwanted or inappropriate medical treatments are continued. The ACT government aims to ensure that processes are in place so that people receive safe and high-quality end-of-life care that aligns with best practice and nationally agreed standards, and is available for all.

The ACT palliative care services plan 2013-17 was released in October 2013 and sets the direction for palliative care in this region. Under the 2015-16 budget, as has been

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