Dying Well – Prof Maddocks tells how

A belated but hearty congratulations to palliative care Godfather, Emeritus Professor  Ian Maddocks, who was named Senior Australian of the Year 2013. My heart jumped with joy at the news as I played a small part supporting his nomination by another South Australian, whose wife had recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease.

The media has told the  inspiring story of “Prof’’, who at 81 years of age is still administering medication for pain management to the dying well into the night.

However, for those of us whose lives have been touched by this Angel Gabriel, our stories are not just about the welcome pain relief, but also about how “prof’’ provides his patients with boundless care and compassion and helps them prepare to die with dignity.

We met Professor Maddocks in the most traumatic circumstances – at the end of a hospital bed only hours after my husband was told he was going to die.  Ignorance is not bliss facing such a life crisis as a death sentence from disease.   For the next 10 months,  Prof was only a telephone call away and he knocked on our door many times to give a prescription, adjust medication or administer a morphine injection.  It was priceless professional support at bulk bill Medicare rates.

Importantly, Professor Maddocks has played a pivotal role in enlightening the community  that the dying process  is a valued part of the life cycle. It is not to be shied away from and to this end he envelops the family in the task at hand.  He treats his patients with dignity and kindness  and respect until the moment of death.  He informs his patients and rather than dwelling in fear, his information gives them power. They know their fate is on the horizon and can face it as any other phase of life – fearlessly and in a comfortable state.

Dying is actually an ebbing of life, sometimes over a long period of time and for many, such as my beloved husband, severe cancer pain was a real fear.  Yet, with strong pain relief, he led a full life until the last two months when Professor Maddocks instructed a caring brigade of palliative nurses who called at home twice daily to administer timed doses of morphine intravenously.

Prof’s aim is to keep the patient comfortable to enable him/her to participate in life as much as practicable and this is all the more remarkable because he is an octagenarian.

The good professor has devoted the last 25 years of his “rather extended life’’ to developing  palliative care as a discipline.

In a recent interview he explained care of the dying. “It’s about how you can make terminal illness into something which is positive and which family can feel  happy with as they see the departure of the loved one going well,’’ he said.

“We were not doing dying well.  We were putting the dying away inside rooms; we were not thinking of the family. Hospitalised care is isolating and I thought we should be doing this better.’’

Professor Maddocks, who was made a member of the Order of Australia in 2003, was the first Foundation Professor of Palliative Care at Flinders University in 1988 and prior to that he was the Senior Medical Specialist at the Flinders Medical Centre.  He was the first president of the Australian and New Zealand Society  for Palliative Medicine.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1983 as Chair of the Board of Directors of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Death was the last taboo, stuffed into the closet, but Professor Maddocks threw it open to allow the dying process to be aired as a stage of life which families should not fear, but face as a precious time for loving, laughing, for talking together and saying goodbye.

This is why Professor Maddocks’ award is such a joy because he has had the platform to talk about dying well; about creating a supportive environment of “love and courage and patience’’ so our loved ones can leave us peacefully and pain free.



Frankie is a champ at tennis


Frank plays champion tennis at 70 years of age.

Whatever happens to ageing rockers? Ask Frank Sebastyan, former sensational lead singer of Frankie and the In Sect rock band and he will tell you his sporting success story.

Forget about the microphone, Frankie now wields a tennis racket and played for South Australia in Perth at the Tennis Seniors Australia Championships in January.   He did let slip, though, that he was a member of the 70 – 79 age-group team.  And Frank, in his effervescent style, bragged of his wins and how chuffed he was to receive his South Australian State shirt. And he reckons it won’t be the last.

Here is Frankie in action – and note the colourful shoes – his trademark down through the years.




French women “wear the pants” at last


Paris chiefs have finally told women they can ‘wear the trousers’ after a 213-year-old ban on wearing such clothing was revoked as “incompatible’’ with contemporary French society.

Back in 1800 law-makers had originally issued the order forcing women to seek permission from police if they wanted to ‘dress like a man’.

Of course, this never stopped 19th century French author Georges Sand from dressing as a man, complete with lit cigar in her mouth, to foster her spectacular writing career, which she thought would benefit from her being seen as a male writer rather than female.

The order was later amended in 1892 and 1909 to allow women to wear trousers if they were ‘holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of  orse’ but it officially remained a statute on the books.

Now French politician, women’s rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, has decriminalised potentially thousands of Parisian women by saying that the law is incompatible with modern French values.

‘This order was aimed, first of all, at limiting the access of women to certain offices or occupations by preventing them from dressing in the manner of men,’’ she said in a prepared statement.

‘This order is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men. From that incompatibility stems the implicit abrogation of the order.’

The order was originally issued following the French Revolution when Parisian women demanded the right to wear trousers in their attempt to win equality.

At the time, working-class revolutionaries were known as ‘sans-culottes’ for wearing trousers instead of the silk-knee breeches (culottes) favoured by the ruling classes.

The regime that took power after the monarchy was deposed is thought to have been afraid that true equality for women would undermine its power. It used orders like the banning of trousers as a way of keeping them in their place.

Meanwhile, in contemporary French politics, the manner of dress of French housing minister Cecile Duflot has provoked comment – and media coverage.

The 37-year-old Green housing minister was criticised last May for wearing jeans to the first cabinet meeting of Socialist President Francois Hollande’s new government. She was later subjected to jeers and wolf-whistles while wearing a floral summer dress in the National Assembly.

There was no question the law needed to be revoked when a number of other women also broke parliamentary protocol by wearing jeans during an extended debate recently over France’s planned legalisation of gay marriage.