Everyone in Northern Ireland has the right to live well until they die
When I was 19, my dad was told he had less than six months to live. Despite knowing that time was short and even though we were a very close family, we didn’t talk about the end.
We were all trying so hard to protect each other from the pain of him no longer being there. But there was one occasion during his treatment that we had a very honest conversation about how much time he had left.
My dad had an excellent consultant who told it how it was, in a compassionate and respectful way. Hard as this was to hear, we all got the message loud and clear and were actually grateful for such honesty. I only wish we had had more conversations like that.
But that’s the problem with death and dying – it’s hard to talk about. Despite its inevitability death remains an uncomfortable and painful topic. And yet we all hope to have the best end possible to our life, even though we don’t even talk about it. It feels like we are almost leaving it to chance.
We know that by discussing our last wishes we have a better chance of accessing the care we need because we are more aware and better informed of what support is available. All too often, we hear of stories where people have missed out on care they need, such as those highlighted in Marie Curie’s The way we die now – personal stories of terminal illness in the UK.
We’re particularly reticent in Northern Ireland to talk about death and dying and we believe this is a contributing factor to the fact that an estimated 3,000 people here are missing out on the palliative care they need. This unmet need is set to rise with our ageing population, as more and more us are living longer with more complex conditions.
Marie Curie believes everyone has the right to palliative care and that’s why we have a launched a Charter for people with a terminal illness in Northern Ireland to help raise awareness of how someone with a terminal illness should be treated.
Other than birth, death and dying is arguably the most vulnerable stage of life for every single one of us, and one which also has profound and enduring impact on our friends and family. It seems odd and indeed wrong that there is such a lack of visibility of it as basic right for everyone.
We would like to increase this visibility so that everyone with a terminal illness in Northern Ireland receives the care and support they need.
Please support Marie Curie by endorsing our charter by contacting your local MLA so that we increase awareness of palliative care in Northern Ireland and ensure everyone with a terminal illness receives the support they need.