The Presiding Officer sneezing is not an auspicious start for me.
I thank Linda Fabiani for bringing the debate to Parliament. I am proud of all our charities. I recommend that she should not get on a bicycle, or she will end up like me.—[
The debate caused a stushie at home. When I told my wife that I was speaking in it, she wondered whether—because she is the chair of the local Macmillan fundraising group—I was wandering. However, I pointed out that, as she knows, this is not a time for splits, because every organisation works hand-in-hand on such issues.
In 2003, my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and died a year later at home. In 2005, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died that year at home. In 2006, my father was diagnosed with cancer and died in hospital, because the doctor considered it to be too risky to send him home. To this day, I struggle to understand what the risks were, because we all knew what the end of the journey would be, and so did he.
Those events prove that bad things often happen in threes, but more important is that they proved to me three other points: first, that the skill of doctors and nurses makes pain largely optional; secondly, that with the aid of charities such as Marie Curie patients can come home to die if they want to; and, thirdly, that we need substantial investment in community based care. I will look briefly at each of those issues.
First, is pain optional? In this day and age, we are blessed with medicines that mean that pain is almost optional. The days of being told to grit our teeth and take the pain are, in most cases, a thing of the past. They are not quite totally a thing of the past, because it often takes time to get the dosage correct for a patient. To do that, we need the help of nurses such as the Marie Curie nurses who provide specialist care based on in-depth knowledge and experience.
Secondly, I turn to the reasons why we should promote people going home to die. If patients want to go home to die, it is a duty of a civilised society to make that happen. Not everyone wants to go home to die and not every family is equipped to make that possible for their loved ones. However, why we would deny a person the ability to do so because a doctor deems the risks to be too high is beyond my comprehension. We need to change the views of doctors.
The third issue is that substantial investment in local care is needed. In the past few years, there have been clear pressures on our health service and a reduction in local healthcare professionals such as community nurses and home visitors. That needs to be reversed: we need to increase investment in local services, especially if we are to cope with an ageing population that will result in an increase of about 10,000 people dying each year in Scotland.
For those reasons, I want to commend all the work that Marie Curie does to make a difference and to support those who need its help. Marie Curie can do that only because of the extraordinary work of its fundraisers. For example, in Inverness a fire walk raised £13,000, an art sale raised £12,000 and a plant sale raised £6,000. Last year alone, £39,000 was raised. I am told that, already this year, fundraisers in the area have raised £26,000, which is seriously impressive and seriously needed. I have told my wife that she and her committee need to do a lot better.
I welcome the debate and stand in awe of all that the people who are involved with Marie Curie do. They are impressive and inspirational, and Parliament and Scotland should applaud them. I do.