News

30-05-2016

Conversations about end of life care often take place in the midst of a crisis at a Hospital Emergency Department or Intensive Care Unit, with many people dying in a way they would not chose, leaving loved ones guilty, bereaved and distressed. When surveyed, the majority of Australians want to die at home, but the statistics show that only 14% are able to so. A new health initiative has been introduced to Australians, aiming to improve how we talk about death and dying, particularly within our families and about our wishes.

deathoverdinner.org.au invites everyone to participate in a most important dinner conversation that is currently not occurring in Australia. The idea is to share your end of life wishes and plan a dinner to help others share theirs.

The website offers suggestions for the guest list, both the numbers and the make-up, materials for guests and you to pre-read/listen or watch, and conversation prompts.  Attached to the website is an extensive library of written, visual and audio material covering a range of views and personal experiences which will be regularly updated, as varied as Last Day ( from Charlotte's Web ) where Charlotte consoles Wilbur as she faces her death,  to Dr Atul Gawande advice to Medical Practitioners on knowing when to stop and Rabbi Eart Grollman's Ten Commandments for the Caregiver.

A dinner party does not replace a legal document for advance care planning, but you want your family to know as many of the nuanced details a legal document is unable to provide as well as your specific opinions and wishes.

For details regarding Advance Health Directives, ( AHD)  the WA Health Department has a very clear and straightforward guide at healthywa.wa.gov.au .

The information contained helps you to make a legal document that contains your decisions about your future health treatments. The document allows you to provide or refuse consent to future treatments,  no one else can complete a AHD for you once you have lost capacity to make or communicate decisions. Many people due to personal experience, religious beliefs or advice from loved ones feel it is important to specify treatments they do and do not wish to receive in the future.

Under the common law it is possible to make a living will. This is a general term for a written statement made in advance regarding the person's wishes regarding future treatments. An AHD is a specific type of living will which is recognised by statutory legislation. The Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 enshrines the enforceability of the AHD subject to certain safeguards and protects health professionals who take treatment actions in good faith.

Without an AHD the treatment decisions will be made following a hierarchy of decision makers that the medical professionals are required to follow, it is designed to give the authority to those who are most likely to know your beliefs and wishes.

  • Your enduring guardian if you have appointed one or
  • Your guardian if one has been appointed for you and finally
  • A person responsible for you, such as spouse, de facto ( includes same sex partner), parent, sibling or unpaid carer.

Your next-of-kin does not have immediate authority to give or refuse consent for treatment automatically unless they have a role in the hierarchy above.

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