Mum died on Friday. She had a 'good death'. Those in palliative medicine define a 'good death' as one where the dying person is symptom free, in the place they want to be, with the people they want to be with. Mum died symptom free, in our lounge, with Dad by her side. Saying 'Mum died' might seem blunt to some, but that's what happened. Mum worked in palliative medicine all of her life and as a family we've always spoken about death and end of life care openly and honestly, so it seems only appropriate that we continue that when discussing Mum's death.
I can't imagine how it must feel to wonder which part of your body might fail on you next, to know that you might not live to the weekend and will never feel the sun on your skin again. Yet, she faces it with a dignity and grace that most of us can't muster when faced with the prospect of a half-hour trip on a weird smelling bus, never mind much else.
As a society we are clear that suicide is not something to be encouraged or assisted. Legalising assisted suicide flies in the face of that. It sends the message that, if you are terminally ill, ending your life is something that society endorses and that you might want to consider. Is that really the kind of society we want?
England has the chance through my Private Member's Bill to improve care. The Bill would require all commissioners to ensure their patient population has access to seven day specialist palliative care services, that patients and their families have a clear point of contact in a crisis, that there is advice available at all times to front line staff caring for dying patients and that such staff have all received core training in good end of life care.
The majority of people with Parkinson's would prefer to die at home but research suggests they are more likely to die in hospital. That's why at Parkinson's UK we are calling for more work to be done to help people communicate their wishes about their death in the early stages of the condition.
Whether it's through writing a will, making financial plans, planning for our future care and support including through making a Lasting Power of Attorney, or deciding whether we want to join the organ donor, all of us can increase the likelihood of getting our wishes met and reduce the chances of life after our death becoming even more difficult for the people we care about.
Everyone deserves care that works for them and their families at the end of their lives. However, we know that end of life care is not meeting the needs of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, and we are in danger of failing to reach increasing numbers unless urgent steps are taken.
Marie Curie works on its own and in partnership with a wide range of NHS, public and voluntary sector organisations to tackle many of the challenges highlighted in today's report. We want everyone, wherever they live to be able to have a 'good death', provided with the care they want and need, with support available for them and their families.
Better identification of people who are in the last days and weeks of life, increased provision of community-based services and greater integration of hospital and community-based services are essential to help reduce the pressures on the NHS and increase choices and services for people at the end of life.