Finite Lives report Published






An Taoiseach Enda Kenny will today (17th May) launch Finite Lives An Examination of State Services in Ireland. The report, by Independent Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell is the first comprehensive analysis of end-of-life issues across all government departments outside health.

Commenting on the report, Senator O’Donnell said that end of life, which costs the health budget at least €1.4 billion a year, affects about 900 people every day – an estimated 80 people who die and the 800 people directly affected by these deaths.

The Report recommends:

  • The need for a whole-of-government national strategy on end-of-life
  • A national public consultation process on people’s views around dying and death
  • A socio-economic review of the costs of dying, death and bereavement including funeral poverty
  • Regulation of the Funeral Services Industry
  • Reinstatement of the Bereavement Grant
  • An audit of and proactive response to combat financial abuse of the elderly
  • The development of modules within teacher training on supporting grieving children.
  • Increase in the Living Alone Allowance
  • Promotion of the Think Ahead planning tool
  • Full commencement of the Advance Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015
  • Updating the Coroners Bill 2007 and enacting it as a priority
  • Recognition and promotion of the role of the arts particularly at end of life

In terms of communications, Senator O’Donnell has recommended that the State develops a dedicated website outlining all State services that are available to support people at end of life.

Services in the UK such as “Tell Us Once” and the Bereavement Service Helpline should be explored and adapted for Ireland, to reduce the administrative burden facing individuals and families.

Senator O’Donnell also recommends that income supports for people who are bereaved should be reviewed with particular attention paid to the needs of young widows with children. Anomalies should be addressed such as the situation facing those who are unmarried with children who lose a partner.

She continued: “When our citizens are faced with their most challenging times, when people are vulnerable, when they are facing life-limiting illnesses, death and bereavement, it is then that we as citizens should see the state operating at its very best. The State cannot take away death. But what we as citizens can legitimately expect, is that the State supports people to cope better with the myriad of practical, social and emotional issues that present before, during and after a death”.

The report calls on the State to respond by:

  • Developing appropriate income supports,
  • designing our homes, public transport and public buildings with an end-of-life perspective,
  • relieving the financial burden on families when the remains of their loved ones are being repatriated by providing funding to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust
  • encouraging all Departments to develop end of life plans towards an overall national strategy

Senator O’Donnell stated: “This report is about where Government Departments and agencies recognise their role in relation to dying, death and bereavement, and where they do not, and how we, as a developing republic, fill in the service and information gaps. The State can do better. The report challenges the State to build our dying and death into policy and practice across all departments and agencies. It identifies where that works and where improvement is needed especially around clear information, available services and supports and unmet needs. It also suggests some new creative practices which should be considered, observed and supported. It is ground-breaking. It is the opening of a conversation with the government”.

The Senator concluded: “Whether death is sudden or prolonged, whether young or old, it is the time when life ends forever or is altered forever. We have to face the tipping point of a changed life graph for those left behind. It is at this time that we need the State to step in with generous services, facilities, amenities and information. And it is at this time that we most need to be treated with courtesy and civility and to feel that we have been so considered. This report is a plea for a political vision. For a vision that will affect 100% of the population. How we die is as important as the irrefutable fact, that we will. This report is the beginning of a national conversation. Difficult, challenging and, ultimately, one which will mark us out as a 100 year old Republic”.
– Ends –

Download report: Finite Lives