Kaiwhakahaere for New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation Kerri Nuku offered an interesting perspective at last night’s Health Central ChalkTalks panel discussion on the End of Life Choice Bill.
Unlike other panel members who were firmly for or against the proposed legislation, Nuku said nurses’ main concern was having their role in end-of-life care acknowledged.
New Zealand’s nursing organisations, including NZNO, represent thousands of nurses, and unsurprisingly a spectrum of different opinions on the Bill. Regardless of the varied stances across the profession, nurses have huge involvement with the care and wellbeing of people who are dying. They therefore should be part of any conversation in this space, argues Nuku.
“We don’t want to get delegated work that we don’t have any influence in,” said Nuku.
“Our primary role is to protect nurses in any legislation that may well roll out into the future. The problem that we’ve had and faced previously is legislation has happened and we’ve just inherited stuff so this was a proactive principled approach to make sure the professional role of nurses is maintained.”
As the panel discussed in what circumstances medicalised euthanasia would be appropriate (never, argued some panel members), Nuku raised an interesting point.
“I think that’s the problem, is that you’re outwardly looking in as opposed to from the patient’s perspective or the family’s perspective; what does hopelessness, or wellbeing or a dignified death look like [to them]?”
Nuku felt that part of the problem with the conversation about assisted dying was that it makes too many assumptions about what people want when it comes to death and dying.
“My concern is that we spend too much time looking at it from a clinician’s point of view as opposed to engaging the patient, understanding their cultural context, understanding what does a dignified death look like for Māori.”
Nuku strongly advocated for Māori perspectives to be brought into these discussions.
“I represent a large group of Māori nurses throughout the country whose role is to engage within the communities… we talk about death and dying, regularly. We’re not afraid of death and dying. Sometimes I think that the Western worldview compartmentalises death as opposed to us seeing it as a holistic place for holistic growth and wellbeing.”
For full coverage of the Health Central ChalkTalks panel discussion on the End of Life Choice Bill, keep an eye on our ChalkTalks section.