Doctors urged to talk it tough
WITH an ageing population, the Australian medical community faces questions about how to best tackle the sensitive topic relating to end-of-life care.
Australian Medical Association palliative care specialist Doctor Will Cairns said that as technologies advance and doctors capabilities to prolong life increase, they need to develop a responsibility to appropriately plan and discuss palliative care options with their patients.
“While none of us wants to upset our patients, the inescapable reality is that we must nurture our social skills to fulfil one of the most important tasks for doctors, the communication of information that causes distress,” Dr Cairns said.
“Our clinical relationships should be based on the common understanding that life is finite and dealing with death a necessity.”
Palliative care Queensland chief executive officer Shyla Mills said the first step is to encourage doctors to implement planning steps in their own lives as it will provide them with beneficial insight on how to best bring up the topic when discussing it with their patients.
“We encourage doctors to think about it for themselves and their families and then it’s easier for them to have those conversations with their patients,” Ms Mills said.
Dr Cairns said individuals and the community at large were growing more aware of their right and need to make decisions about their own health care.
“When doctors shy away from the tough conversations, we are essentially denying our patients as well as their relatives the chance to be involved in decision-making for their own health care,” he said.
Dr Cairns said the discussions doctors should be preparing themselves for include, why advance care planning is important and how it relates to a patient’s circumstances based on their individual values, wishes and beliefs.
They should be knowledgeable enough to guide patients and help them explore different options in regards to treatments that are available to them.
This way families can utilise expert knowledge when tackling complex decisions.
Statistics released by Palliative Care Australia revealed in 2015, almost 160,000 Australians died and the leading cause of death was from chronic disease.
Two-thirds of deaths occurred in people aged 75 or over and around half of all deaths occurred in a hospital, while another third occurred in residential aged care facilitates.
A spokesperson from Palliative Care Australia said as the rate of individuals who need the service rises, new attention needs to be directed towards providing the best care for those patients.
To make plans for your future health care or to find out more information, visit advancecareplanning.org.au.
DEEP CHATS: AMA urges doctors to talk the tough talk.