THE CHANGES WE NEED IN OUR SOCIETY
The first change would be for doctors and healthcare workers to be trained to be comfortable with having “end-of-life” discussions. In a 2010 survey of 1 000 doctors in the UK, as many as two-thirds responded that they were ill at ease with having end-of-life discussions with their patients. Healthcare training needs to balance life-saving training with a readiness to help people die better deaths. Medical aid schemes could play a supportive role by having a recognised code to reimburse doctors for such consultations.
Encourage every citizen older than 18 to have a living will, also known as an advanced directive, in place. In La Crosse in the US state of Wisconsin, physicians there have campaigned since 1985 that every adult should consciously sign off on their end-of-life preferences.
There are various benefits including peace of mind for oneself and clarity for the family on what to do in case of emergency. There seems to be a positive impact on longevity, and data indicate end-of- life healthcare costs are reduced.
Strengthen the legal standing of the living will document. In South Africa, it merely serves as a guideline for doctors and does not need to be complied with as is the case in other countries.
A new legal dispensation that sanctions assisted dying. According to Wikipedia, assisted dying involves a doctor “knowingly and intentionally providing a person with the knowledge or means or both required to commit suicide, including counselling about lethal doses of drugs, prescribing such lethal doses or supplying the drugs”.
The hastened death may be aided by a physician and is sometimes called voluntary euthanasia.