LGBT people across the UK aren't getting the end of life support that they need.
That's according to a new report
by Marie Curie, which revealed that nearly three-quarters (74%) of LGBT people don't feel confident that health and social care services provide sensitive end of life care for their needs.
According to the report, this fear of stigma and discrimination often means sick and suffering LGBT people, many of them older, delay accessing the care they need, and are more likely to experience unmanaged symptoms and pain at the end of their lives.
It is estimated that over 40,000 LGBT people die each year in the UK. However, a significant number don’t get the proper care they need, despite the fact that LGBT statistically face higher rates of life-threatening diseases than the national average.
Entitled ‘Hiding who I am: Exposing the reality of end of life care for LGBT people,’ highlights real-life cases of those who've suffered at the hands of discriminatory practice by health professionals and the care system, such as that of a terminally ill woman whose doctor refused to see her without a chaperone because she was a lesbian.
60-year-old Jonathan’s partner was diagnosed of bowel cancer in 2005 and died last year.
"It seemed I had to come out every day – multiple times a day sometimes – because most of the world is a heteronormative environment," Jonathan says.
"I got in touch with an advocacy helpline, and the receptionist at the end of the phone was nonplussed when I said that I was gay. She assumed I was calling about my wife."
"I was trying to find any possible way of getting help and support but her reaction – well, it put me off in a way. It did make me want to just not pursue that particular avenue."
One in four of the people interviewed said they had faced discrimination during their life which led to anxiety when accessing end of life care. Because of this, many people hide who they are and fear about ‘outing’ themselves to health care professionals.
Scott Sinclair, Head of Policy and Public Affairs for England at Marie Curie, says of the report's findings: “Learning about the prejudice LGBT people experience as they are dying, when they are at their most vulnerable, is deeply saddening.”
Hannah Kibirige, Head of Policy, at Stonewall, adds: “Often older LGBT people are extremely vulnerable, particular if in care or terminally ill, and so it’s vital that healthcare staff are aware of the experiences they face.”
Words: Darren Mew
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