Advice on end- of- life discussions
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