Dr Ian McPhee

Life takes many turns, for us, just as for our patients. Wellness for most is a fleeting state, punctuated by crises of varying impact on ourselves and those we love. 

When a busy life had been slowly curtailed by years of ongoing fatigue I was more puzzled than distressed. I was frustrated by not being able to ‘keep up’, but accepting that, for whatever reason, this was how it had to be. Little doubt you can imagine that I struggled through with ‘eczema’ being pitched as a primary cause. Four years on from an initial eczema diagnosis, and after more than one ‘opinion’, a skin biopsy revealed that there was a little more to this malady that had largely taken over my life. Suddenly I was confronted with the potential reality of a rare, rapidly progressive lymphoma.

‘Rare’ however comes with myriad implications. The first was the question: where might a pathologist be found who would make a call on the histology? And to think we all regard the radiologist’s emblem as a fence depicted suitably encircled by the obligatory ‘Latin’? Indeed, it was exactly so for a pathological opinion. But it didn’t end there. Where next to find expert haematological assessment and ongoing care?

Dr Jane Barker

Politicians in two main states are working to legalise euthanasia under defined guidelines, but it’s doctors who would have to implement their policies. Dr Jane Barker discusses her reasons for opposing physician assisted suicide.

As we will be the ones expected to write the scripts, administer the medications and make the final decision within the boundaries of the law, the euthanasia debate is our debate, yet we have not adequately engaged in it. How will we respond if pressurised by patients or family members, or accused of lacking in compassion?

By definition, physician assisted suicide (PAS) is a medical issue, but the question of whether we as a group, or as individuals, wish to play this role, and the regulatory parameters, has not been fully discussed with us.

Legalising euthanasia

Last week a bill supporting physician assisted suicide was passed in the Victorian State lower house. It will now go for debate in the Victorian Senate. NSW is also preparing to debate the subject.

Mary and Zbys Klich

Not the normal phone call. As part of general preparations for my seventh decade, I'd decided on 21 November to have routine blood tests done, and the usual response from my GP to the annual check up results in the past has been, "Same old...if all my patients were like you I'd be out of business".

I ran a lot, ate well, went to the gym, and drank good wine occasionally. 

But this time it was different: "You should come in, we need to talk".

In his rooms the doctor added, "Everything else is great, however you have an elevated PSA level". He smiled, but seemed cautious.

"In fact, it is substantially elevated".

He was being helpful, but tentative. "In the past it has been 0.5 to 0.9, but this result is 44".

Not good, obviously.

"There may be a number of explanations, but you should be aware that the PSA level is often used to detect early signs of cancer".

Comorbidity project coordinator, Sharmaine Keogh and Rekindling the Spirit Service Manager, Jeff Richardson.

 Lismore-based organisation Rekindling the Spirit (RTS) is reporting positive signs from a federally-funded pilot program aimed at better supporting Indigenous people with co-occurring alcohol and other drug (AOD) and mental health issues.

The Co-Morbidity Model is funded under the Commonwealth Non Government Organisations Treatment Grant Program. It is focused on trialling holistic care for Aboriginal clients in the Richmond Valley area of the Northern Rivers where to date around 56 people over 18 years of age (most in their late 20s - early 30s) have been assessed, supported through counselling and referred to specialist services.

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM

Ice dependency, mental health conditions, suicide prevention and chronic disease are among the targets of $9.1 million federal government funding boost aimed at improving Indigenous health across the NSW North Coast.

Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, visited Ballina, Lismore and Casino on 6 November to talk with providers of innovative services in these areas, commissioned through the North Coast Primary Health Network (PHN).

“The funding supports community driven projects, including mental health, alcohol and other drug services, where local Aboriginal people previously experienced challenges accessing support,” Minister Wyatt said.