Call for right to die at home

from the Solihull Observer, 7 December 2006

by Jo Sykes

A PRIEST and nurse from Solihull teamed up to launch a unique campaign this week in a bid to improve palliative. care services for patients across the borough.

The Rev Dr James Woodward has joined forces with leading palliative care nurse Helen Meehan to fight on behalf of terminally ill residents who wish to die in the comfort of their own homes.

Dr Woodward, the vicar of St Mary's Church at Temple Balsall, said he hoped to change people's attitudes towards death, during the launch of the Living Well to the End of Life Campaign, in Edgbaston on Friday (December 1).

He called on the medical community to stop and listen to what the dying had to say about the support they needed and where they would like to spend their final days.

"The virtues we need to see reflected in the way health serv-ices treat people who are terminally ill include respect, truth and compassion."

Mrs Meehan is based in Solihull and said she, too, wanted every patient diagnosed with a terminal illness to have a choice about what happened to them. She believes the delivery of palliative care in the borough had improved in the past three years, but still has a long way to go.

"Only a minority of people with incurable cancer, heart failure, kidney disease and dementia currently die at home, despite surveys which have found the vast majority would prefer to end their days in familiar surrounding rather than the more clinical environment of a hospital.".

West Midlands Strategic Health Authority chief executive, Cynthia Bower, said: "Over the next 18 months we want to get the public debate going.

"We shall be asking people to consider what sort of treatment, help and support they would expect if they were told they had less than a year of life to live."

The campaign is being run by the Pan Birmingham Palliative Care Network, sup-ported by Solihull Care Trust, as well as local health. services in Birmingham, Sandwell and South Staffordshire.

Jo Sykes