WA's most senior end-of-life care specialists are concerned that an alarming lack of palliative care resources has caused increased demand for euthanasia.
Today, Legislative Assembly MPs will begin debating a bill to legalise euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide.
According to the doctors, WA has the lowest number of publicly funded care beds per capita in the nation.
WA Palliative Medicines Specialist Group chairman Anil Tandon told WA Today that only one in three Western Australians who needed specialist palliative care had access to it.
Royal Perth Hospital only provided specialist palliative care during office hours, according to Professor Doug Bridge, the former head of palliative care at the hospital.
"I worked at Royal Perth for 20 years as head of department and still five years later I look and there's still no palliative care people on the weekend," he said.
"So Friday night, a patient is in pain, vomiting, breathless, they have to wait until Monday morning to see a specialist. You can't afford to pay them and that's been going on for decades."
Dr Tandon stated that it was no coincidence that states with the worst palliative care were the most supportive of euthanasia.
"If we join those two issues together, the current investment in palliative care and the current demand for euthanasia, what we see is that the two states with the lowest funding for palliative care are Victoria and Western Australia," he said.
"If there hasn't been an investment, well the public is going to want a solution to their distress."
There are only 15 full-time-equivalent palliative care specialists across WA, well under the 50 FTE positions recommended by national benchmarks.
Darryl Budge of FamilyVoice WA said, “In a state with dire statistics relating to elder abuse, mental health and youth suicide, the WA government must instead fix chronic underfunding of palliative care, especially as regional and rural WA are being denied equal access to specialists.
"WA has under one third of the palliative care specialists required by national benchmarks and the state needs more than $100 million in annual spending on palliative care for staffing and education, in addition to funding for infrastructure such as palliative care wards and beds.
"Wrongful deaths are guaranteed by this bill, which has even less safeguards than Victoria. No permit will be required to ensure a legal and robust process. There is no requirement for expert assessment of patient capacity. Evidence from WA’s chief psychiatrist on the importance of psychiatric assessments was ignored. Patients will be able to “doctor-shop” for any two doctors, who do not need to be financially independent, nor have expertise in palliative care or in the patient’s condition. The doctors can also hide the true cause of death on the death certificate."