Australia: a great place to live, and now a great place to die

If you’re going to go, Down Under is a good place to do it. Photo: waverleycemetery.com

Australia is the second best place in the world to die, thanks to high incomes and quality of palliative care, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Topping the 2015 Quality of Death Index is the UK, with the best quality of death due to its comprehensive national policies, extensive integration of palliative care into its National Health Service, and a strong hospice movement.

New Zealand is in third place.

The index, which measures the quality of palliative care in 80 countries, argues that as governments work to improve life for citizens, they must also consider how to help them die well.

Challenges associated with the ageing population include the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia and cancer, and therefore the need for a high standard in palliative care is critical.

“We’ve seen unprecedented changes in the way the world population is moving, with more people over the age of 65 than under the age of five,” says Stephen Connor, senior fellow at the Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance. “That’s never happened in human history before and it’s going to continue to get more pronounced.”

Subsidies for palliative care services are also necessary to make treatment affordable.

Australia ranked as a top scorer in this area, along with Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, and the UK, covering 80 to 100% of patient costs for palliative care.

However the report finds that Australia’s system of allocating the responsibility of healthcare to the states leads to inconsistencies in care delivery.

“There isn’t an equitable spread of funding across the country,” says Liz Callaghan, chief executive of Palliative Care Australia.

“You’d hope it would be based on what the population needs. Everyone talks about it, but that’s very far away. In some states funding for palliative care is extremely low so the multidisciplinary team might be just a doctor and a nurse.”

An interesting trend the report also touches on is a growing number countries adopting a movement known as “Death Cafés”.

These facilities offer meetings over tea and cakes where participants can hold open conversations on death and share their ideas and concerns with others.

See the full list of rankings here:

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