Nurses, doctors and UNSW researchers are encouraging people to start a conversation about their end of life wishes and to learn about the latest work to support people with terminal illness.
The team from UNSW's Simpson Centre for Health Services Research will visit the Kensington Campus on Tuesday, 8 August for Dying to Know Day, an annual event that encourages people to consider what a good death looks like.
Dr Magnolia Cardona-Morrell, the leader of the end-of-life improvement research program, says several research groups around the world have been focussing on the issue of dying well for some time.
Dr Cardona-Morrell’s group has recently published an article on inappropriate hospital admissions that still occur at the end of life: admissions that are medically ineffective, where the admission and treatments will not change the poor prognosis; and admissions that are socially driven, where patients stay in hospital because there is insufficient support to enable them to die comfortably in their own home or in a community-based service.
This followed another publication revealing that a third of older patients received non-beneficial treatments in their last hospitalisation before death.
“Dying to Know Day is an opportunity for everyone to embrace the idea that we should be allowed to die of natural causes if we are of advanced age and suffer from advanced chronic illness,” Dr Cardona-Morrell says.
“We will be on campus so everyone can come and talk to nurses, doctors or researchers about what we are doing in hospitals to discuss patient choices at the end of life, how to support people with terminal illness and what a good death looks like.”
Ebony Lewis, an emergency and geriatric nurse in the team, says it’s important to normalise the concept of death and prevent unnecessary prolonging of suffering.
“We want to create awareness of the need to discuss our preferences for what treatments or quality of life we would consider acceptable when we are approaching the natural end of our lives,” she says.
“It is possible to prevent unnecessary suffering if we are open about our fears and preferences. It is possible to leave clear instructions with family and our doctors on our decisions in an advance care directive in case we end up in hospital and someone has to make those difficult decisions on our behalf.”
The team will have a table outside the UNSW Library, Kensington Campus, from 12pm - 2pm on Tuesday, August 8.