Ad­vice on end- of- life dis­cus­sions

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - KELSIE IORIO kelsi. iorio@ news. com. au

DY­ING: it’s go­ing to hap­pen to ev­ery­one.

This fact of life can be hard for peo­ple to talk about and can add stress to al­ready dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions for fam­i­lies and med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als.

Clin­i­cal di­rec­tor of in­ter­nal medicine at The Townsville Hospi­tal Dr John Dick is call­ing on Townsville res­i­dents to start the con­ver­sa­tion about end- of- life care.

“We are get­ting less used to see­ing peo­ple die as a so­ci­ety,” he said. “It’s very im­por­tant that peo­ple think about what it is they want to hap­pen to­wards the end of their life.”

Dr Dick is cham­pi­oning the Depart­ment of Health’s Care at end of life cam­paign in North Queens­land which launched this week, and knows the im­por­tance of ad­vanced care plan­ning first hand.

“It’s heartwrench­ing if you get some­one in and they’re un­able to make a de­ci­sion on what’s to hap­pen next, and the fam­ily can’t de­cide among them­selves,” Dr Dick said.

“You have two op­pos­ing views from within the fam­ily, both equally valid and both equally strongly felt, but you can’t do both.”

Dr Dick was faced with the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion of pro­long­ing the end of his fa­ther’s life, af­ter the World War II medic was struck down with pneu­mo­nia.

In­ten­sive care doc­tors of­fered to put Dr Dick’s fa­ther on ven­ti­la­tors and other ma­chines to pro­long his life at least long enough for fam­ily mem­bers to travel to say good­bye.

“It was fairly that he wasn’t go­ing vive,” he said.

Dr Dick knew his fa­ther’s wishes and chose not to use ma­chines to keep him alive.

“While that con­ver­sa­tion was in­cred­i­bly hard, it was made eas­ier be­cause we had pre­vi­ously had the dis­cus­sion with Dad about how he wanted to be looked af­ter at the end of his life,” he said.

Deputy Di­rec­tor- Gen­eral of ob­vi­ous to sur- the Clin­i­cal Ex­cel­lence Divi­sion of the Depart­ment of Health Dr John Wake­field said the ab­sence of in­for­ma­tion when and where it is needed can and of­ten does lead to un­nec­es­sary and un­wanted in­ter­ven­tions.

“Clin­i­cians can only really as­sist pa­tients achieve good care if they know what this means for each in­di­vid­ual,” Dr Wake­field said.

The cam­paign ties in with the My Health Record sys­tem, which en­ables a state­ment of choices and other med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion to be vis­i­ble to car­ers, med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, GPs, hos­pi­tals and other med­i­cal sec­tors.

“The state­ment of choices is about what’s im­por­tant in life, and what de­ci­sions are to be made,” Dr Dick said.

The state­ment of choices and end- of- life care con­ver­sa­tion can be had at any time for any­one in any state of health.

“It’s not nec­es­sar­ily an age thing, but as we have an older pop­u­la­tion and we’re less used to death, it needs to be more part of our con­scious­ness and we need to think about how we want it to hap­pen,” Dr Dick said.

“It’s OK to talk about death, we should talk about death.”

More in­for­ma­tion on care at the end of life can be found at qld. gov. au/ carea­t­end­oflife

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