LONDON, June 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --
Around the world too many patients have "bad deaths" because they do not get the care they need, said the President of the International Society for Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care on the first day of the Society's annual conference.
"Too often doctors and nurses fail to listen to the real problems from the patients' perspective and find solutions to help patients live as well as possible," said Associate Professor, Dr Bill Silvester, an Australian intensive care specialist.
"Care of the dying must be a priority everywhere."
The conference being held at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Centre has attracted health professionals from around the world who specialise in end of life health care.
"We must not avoid having difficult conversations or worse, ignoring them altogether. Too often patients are not getting what they need and their distress is not being responded to rapidly enough," Dr Silvester said.
"If a patient's suffering is being addressed and they are being listened to and have some control over their future health care, then they are much less likely to resort to assisted suicide or request euthanasia."
Dr Silvester has called on people to document their end of life wishes, including wishes around organ donation, and to discuss these with their family and doctor.
"In a time of crisis, it helps everyone to know what a person would have wanted, particularly if the patient cannot communicate," he said. "No one should be treated against their clear and informed wish."
"For those with early dementia it is particularly important that we know what they want in their care when they deteriorate, so that they have appropriate end of life care." Dr Silvester said.
"The default setting for doctors is quite rightly, to preserve life. But sometimes people want to be able to say 'No' to aggressive interventions. Just because we have an increasing medical armoury of high tech treatments at our disposal, doesn't always mean it's in the patient's best interest to deploy them."
A landmark study by Dr Silvester and colleagues from the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, which was published in the British Medical Journal last year, found that involving patient's families in advance care planning significantly reduces post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression in the surviving relatives of people who have died.
The Director of the NHS National End of Life Care Programme, Claire Henry, agreed more needs to be done to improve the way we die.
"Many people who have been asked about where they would want to be cared for have expressed a preference to die at home, but many of them don't," Ms Henry said.
"Advance care planning is central to this. This gives people, and their families and carers, a chance to think and talk about what they want; making informed choices about the kind of care they want, where they want it and what kinds of treatment, if any, they might refuse."
"Health and social care professionals need to use their skills and expertise to encourage people to talk about their wishes and preferences at the end of life. This is supported by the end of life care charter."
Link to conference website: http://acpelsociety.com/conference/
SOURCE International Society for Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care