Northern Ireland news

Marie Curie urges Stormont to prioritise end-of-life care

Marie Curie Nurse Sarah Younge with the charity's head of policy and public affairs Joan McEwan

A CHARITY for the terminally ill is urging Stormont to prioritise end-of-life care, ahead of a debate tomorrow.

The plea from Marie Curie comes as the Assembly prepares to debate a motion on the absence of end-of-life and bereavement support in the Executive's Programme for Government.

More than 10,400 people across Northern Ireland have signed the charity's petition.

Since the Covid pandemic began, almost 19,000 people have died from all causes in Northern Ireland - a 14 per cent increase on the five-year average.

Despite this, the charity says, the current Government strategy doesn't mention end-of-life care or bereavement support.

Edward Owens died aged 57 from cancer. His sister Alison (55), from Belfast, says he was robbed of a good end-of-life experience.

“Death is always going to be hard, but our experience was horrendous," she said. "We felt so alone and unsupported – it's had a devastating impact on the whole family.

“When Edward was admitted to hospital, things went from bad to worse. He was in complete agony and we got passed from pillar to post. His condition was complex, and because he saw so many doctors and nurses, it was confusing for everyone involved. I felt like I had to be there all the time to be his voice.

“There was no clear pathway and it made it all so traumatic."

After five weeks of battling, Edward was finally admitted to the hospice. Alison added: “The care in the hospice was a complete contrast and the staff were amazing - my only regret is how long it took to get him there.

“I feel so angry that end-of-life care is not part of the current strategy. Death is a part of life, so we need to think about it more."

Joan McEwan, head of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie NI, said the Programme for Government is supposed to identify the biggest challenges facing society, yet there is a "deafening silence on end-of-life care and bereavement".

"We're urging all Stormont parties to support this crucial motion.”

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