Patients’ trust in doctors central in End of Life Choice Bill debate

By April 5, 2019 Recent News

Stuff 4 April 2019
Family First Comment: “As someone who works with people in pain every day, I can’t support the End of Life Choice Bill. It takes a vulnerable population, one that experiences depression and anxiety and already worries that their lives hold no value to society, and offers them suicide as a solution to their pain and suffering. It would destroy the trust that some of my patients have in me, as their pain doctor, to be a safe space where they can discuss the causes of their suffering.”

Dr Conrad Engelbrecht is a doctor in anaesthesia and pain medicine for Waikato DHB and co-head of the Braemar Pain Clinic in Hamilton.
OPINION: In debate around the End of Life Choice Bill, there is a lot of talk about pain and suffering. Is it possible to stop all pain and suffering? Can pain and suffering make a life no longer valuable, and make death a better option than life? What should a doctor’s role be when a patient is experiencing intense pain and suffering?

As an anaesthetist and pain physician working at a pain clinic, it’s my job to help people who are in pain. On a day-to-day basis, I see patients who are suffering, and my job is provide them with an avenue to alleviate their suffering.

I can tell you that pain and suffering are complex experiences. Of course pain can be physical, but it can also be emotional, existential, spiritual or psychological. It can be caused by medical and physical conditions, as well as by emotions and issues held deeply inside a person. Pain often affects people on multiple levels. It affects their moods, their ability to function, their physical activity, how they sleep, their mental well-being, and their social interactions and engagements.

When people experience pain over long periods of time, and when that pain is relentless, people can suffer from low moods and even develop depression and anxiety. They lose things that are important to them: jobs, hobbies, the ability to work, and a sense of self-worth. I have met many patients with chronic or intense pain who feel like they are no longer valuable to their families, their community, or to society – that they’re more of a burden than a blessing.

But these people do still have value, and it is our job, at the pain clinic, not only to help them with their pain, but also to demonstrate to them that they still hold value as people.

twitter follow us