2017 Alan Owen Lecture

2017 Professor Alan Owen Lecture

Friday 24 November 2017, 4:30pm

Lecture Theatre, ITAMS Building, Innovation Campus, University of Wollongong

Choices at end of life: palliative care, euthanasia and other end of life decisions



About the Speaker – Senior Professor Kathy Eagar

Senior Professor Eagar is a health services researcher with a background in psychology and public health. She has over thirty five years of experience in the health and community care systems and has a detailed understanding of the broader Australian health system and good knowledge of aged care services and policy. She is the lead author of the only Australian text on health planning (Eagar K, Garrett P and Lin V (2001) Health Planning: Australian perspectives. Allen and Unwin, Sydney). 

Professor Kathy Eagar

She is Director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) and is involved in all aspects of the Institute’s work. AHSRI has a team of over 50 researchers covering 19 disciplines and includes eight research centres including the Centre for Health Service Development (CHSD), the Australasian Rehabilitation Outcomes Centre (AROC), the Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration (PCOC) and the National Casemix and Classification Centre (NCCC). Kathy has a very strong track record in research translation. She has authored over 350 articles, papers and reports on management, quality, outcomes, information systems and funding of the Australia and New Zealand health and community care systems.

About the Lecture

Public conversation and media coverage about death and dying is increasing in response to the ageing of the baby boomers and in light of both the euthanasia debate and concerns about increasing health care costs. With an ageing population and increasing rates of chronic illnesses, end of life care is a critically important issue. Yet we are living in an ever more death-defying society and many people have little experience of death or of the options and decisions at end of life that make a difference.

Most contemporary health media coverage focuses on the extremes. On one extreme, the health system is portrayed as one that delivers life-saving procedures and miracle cures. On the other, the current focus on euthanasia portrays a health system that is demonstrably unable or unwilling to relieve pain and suffering. The key argument is that, left in intolerable pain, some patients have no choice but to elect to end their life. Neither extreme reflects the day to day reality for the significant majority of people at end of life.

This lecture explored the issues involved in decision-making at end of life from the perspective of patients and families as well as the broader health system and society. It provided an overview of the choices we should all be discussing with our loved ones – not just euthanasia but also advanced care directives, palliative care and organ donation as well as who we want to make our decisions if we are not able to. In also considering clinical issues and research perspectives, this lecture argued that our society and our health system should be ultimately judged not just by how many heroic rescues occur but also by how we care for people at end of life.



Campaigner For Better Health Care - A Life Devoted to Better Outcomes for Patients

Professor Alan Owen 

Last reviewed: 24 May, 2018


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