End-of-life care SIG would be a world-first

A Special Interest Group (SIG) on palliative and supportive care is a likely and positive outcome of the TSANZ annual scientific meeting.

Dr Natasha Smallwood, a respiratory physician in the Integrated Respiratory and Palliative Care Service at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, told the limbic the SIG would be the only one of its kind in respiratory societies around the world.

Dr Smallwood said the issue was important – not least to encourage better access to palliative care for non-cancer patients.

“The idea of palliative care for non-malignant disease is not in the public consciousness,” she said.

“COPD is a disease that progresses slowly and breathlessness is a very much the poor cousin of pain. Cancer pain is visible; breathlessness is incredibly invisible.”

Dr Smallwood said there was hesitancy on both sides of the table when it came to initiating discussions about palliative care.

“Respiratory physicians are still not as comfortable prescribing low-dose opioids as our palliative care colleagues and patients or their families might push back when morphine is mentioned.”

“However there isn’t a dividing line between active management of COPD and palliative care. Instead we can add in palliative care to restorative care,” she said.

The SIG is an effort to bring together a broad group of doctors, nurses and health professionals with an interest in end-of-life support for respiratory patients. It would be able to map and pool available resources, standardise messages in curriculum and clinical practice, and act as a research network.

Expressions of interest in the SIG can be sent to [email protected]

The SIG will be co-convened by Dr Smallwood, palliative care physician Professor Jennifer Philip and nurse consultant Mary Roberts.

The proposal will be considered at the TSANZ Board meeting in June.

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