Aged Care

Palliative care a human right in new aged care act, but concerns remain


The recognition of the human right to access palliative care is a significant milestone in Australia’s new Aged Care Act.

In response, Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and its members have submitted crucial recommendations to ensure that this right becomes a reality.

Camilla Rowland, CEO of PCA, emphasises the importance of the legislation: “This new law will shape the provision of services while driving further policy reform and funding, it’s another key step in the reform agenda inspired by the Aged Care Royal Commission, which said that palliative care is core business for aged care providers.”

“While key aspects in the draft Act take us forward, important detail and understanding is missing,” says Rowland.

PCA is concerned that the draft Act may not fully represent the role of palliative care and its potential benefits in improving the quality of life for individuals with life-limiting illnesses.

The draft Statement of Principles outlines how the Australian Government will implement the Act, stating that aged care should “maintain or improve the individual’s physical, mental, cognitive, and communication capacities to the extent possible, except where it is the individual’s choice to access palliative and end-of-life care.”

Rowland argues, “This statement implies that maintaining quality of life ends with palliative care referral.”

“At its heart and soul, palliative care focuses on sustaining quality of life with the impeccable management of pain and other symptoms – not to forget the social, emotional, and spiritual care needs of the person,” she adds. “Our strong advice is that everyone entering aged care should receive a palliative care assessment.”

PCA is also concerned about the potential unintended consequences of introducing an age-based criterion for receiving aged care.

“It might surprise people to learn that this will be the first time there will be an age threshold to receive aged care enshrined in law,” explains Rowland. “At the moment, unfortunately many people under 65 years are entering residential aged care because the functional supports they need in order to be cared for at home simply don’t exist or are out of reach.

Viable alternatives to aged care must be in place for people under 65 years before the new Act is fully implemented, otherwise the new age cut off will leave these people with less support.”

PCA urges the government to clarify how it will support individuals under 65 outside of the aged care system to avoid negative outcomes.

Additionally, PCA raises concerns about potential complexities regarding supported decision-making and its relationship with existing state-based laws on guardianship and advance care planning.

Rowland concludes, “We look forward to continuing to play our part because the delivery of quality palliative care is so important to the wishes all Australians have for their parents, loved ones, and themselves.”

“Access to palliative care is a human right we’ll keep standing up for.”

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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