Doc­tors urged to talk it tough

Sunshine Coast Daily - Caloundra Weekly - - HEALTH | ADVERTISIN­G FEATURE -

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

DEEP CHATS: AMA urges doc­tors to talk the tough talk.

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