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Make a New Year’s resolution to have the difficult conversations about end of life care

AMA President, A/Prof Brian Owler, has said that the AMA is urging Australians to make a New Year’s Resolution to have the difficult conversations about end of life care.

A/Prof Owler said that talking with your doctor, family, and carers about how you would like to be treated in the event of a serious or fatal accident or illness could be the most important conversation you have all year.

“No-one likes to talk about death or dying, but it is important that people have the conversation with their doctors and loved ones about how they would like to be treated when they approach the end of their life,” A/Prof Owler said.

“As if the distress of witnessing a loved one approaching the end of their life is not enough, relatives and carers are often left guessing about how a person wanted to be treated because they never made their wishes known,” he said.

A/Prof Owler said the start of the year is a good time for people to do something important for themselves and their families and think about, and talk about, how they would like to be treated at the end of their life.

“While competent patients have the right to make their own health care decisions, including the right to refuse life-sustaining treatments, some do not have decision-making capacity at the time end of life care decisions need to be made,” A/Prof Owler said.

“The AMA is calling on people to develop Advance Care Plans and discuss them with their relatives, carers and doctors.

Advance Care Plans set out how someone wants to be treated at the end of their life, and are a guide for families and health workers in the event that they cannot make or communicate their wishes.

Advance Care Plans can be formalised as an Advance Care Directive, which is a written document recognised in common law and authorised by legislation. But they may also be set out in a Medical Enduring Power of Attorney, a letter written to the person responsible for decision-making; an entry in a person’s medical record; or even a verbal instruction.

A/Prof Owler said advance care planning, because it respects the patient’s right to take an active role in their health care, should become a routine part of clinical practice.

“People should not be putting the issue off,” A/Prof Owler said.

“Advance Care Plans are relevant to anyone at any age.

“Unfortunately, just because you are young and healthy doesn’t mean you’ll always be that way.

“An Advance Care Plan gives you, your family, and carers the confidence that they are treating you in accordance with your beliefs and wishes.”

“Please use this New Year to talk to your family and your doctors about Advance Care Planning.

“Prepare an Advance Care Plan and ensure that your doctors and loved ones know about it, and have access to it – for everyone’s peace of mind.”


Source: Australian Medical Association (AMA)