Eveline Harvey

Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

NZ named third best place to die

New Zealand is near the top of a new index that ranks 40 countries' end-of-life care services. File photo / Bay of Plenty Times
New Zealand is near the top of a new index that ranks 40 countries' end-of-life care services. File photo / Bay of Plenty Times

New Zealand frequently ranks among the top countries in the world in 'quality of life' surveys, but a new index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), shows it's also one of the best places to die.

Forty countries were looked at, with each nation ranked according to its performance in four categories, including the availability, cost and quality of end-of-life care services.

New Zealand was named third in the overall rankings, trailing the United Kingdom and Australia and sitting just ahead of Ireland and Belgium.

We ranked best in the category which looked at the cost of end-of-life care, coming first equal with Australia, the Netherlands and Norway, but did not perform so well in the category which looked at a country's basic end-of-life healthcare environment, managing only 28th equal with the United Kingdom.

Factors analysed in the latter category, and which were listed as some of New Zealand's 'weaknesses' in an interactive graphic of the EIU's report, included social security expenditure on health and the availability of hospices and palliative care services per million population over 65.

The index, the first of its kind, was commissioned by the philanthropic Singapore-based Lien Foundation.

Foundation CEO Lee Poh Wah said the organisation had been surprised to find there was no international benchmark on how well countries cared for their dying.

"The way a nation cares for its weakest and most vulnerable is the mark of its soul. How it cares for the dying is a measure of the society's advancement and enlightenment," he said.

"We wanted a global comparison of how different countries deal with this universal issue."

One of the findings which can be gleaned from the report is that a country's prosperity does not necessarily equate to better end-of-life care.

Wealthy Asian nations Hong Kong and Japan managed only 20th and 23rd respectively.

More important, it would appear, is the provision of a national palliative care strategy and the extent to which is integrated into a country's healthcare and medical education policies.

The top three countries on the index (the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) all also scored well in the category which looked at the availability of end-of-life care.

In New Zealand's case, the availability of volunteer workers for end-of-life support and the fact we have a Government-led national palliative care strategy were listed as 'strengths' on the interactive graphic of the report.

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