Dying Well - Hands

Dying well is our Basic Human Right

Choosing where and how we die; who is with us; what medical interventions fit our personal values and having a loving support team there right until the end is all part of dying well.

We can consider that we have put in place steps for dying well if we:

  • understand what is happening and what is available so you can make good decisions
  • are able to make choices that are right for you
  • are treated with dignity and respect
  • are supported by those around you to have your choices followed through
  • you feel valued and an important part of your family and community

Many people don’t realise that they have the legal right to refuse medical treatment, and find themselves caught up in a barrage of medical interventions that don’t suit their values and ideals about a quality of life.

Worse, if they aren’t in a position to communicate their decisions, their nominated Person Responsible or Enduring Guardian will have to advocate on their behalf.

Legal Guidelines for Medical Decisions for Dying Well

According to the Australian Medical Treatment Act 1988, ‘a delegated guardian may be required to make decisions regarding:
     pain relief or sedation which may have the side effect of hastening death;
     the inclusion of Not for Cardio-pulmonary Resuscitation on a patient’s file
    withholding or withdrawing treatment that would, if administered, prolong life;
    a treatment plan ‘for palliative care only’
   refusal of treatment based on cultural or religious ground which may result in death.”

There are many questions to ask yourself so that you can become clear about how you want to spend the last months, weeks and days of your natural life.
For example, where are you hoping/expecting to be if you can no longer feed yourself or manage your own personal hygiene? Do you want to:

  • stay at home and hire professional caregivers
  • stay at home and have your family and friends caring for you
  • stay at home and have volunteer palliative carers tending to you
  • move in with a relative and have family and friends support them to care for you
  • move in with a relative and hire caregivers to help care for you
  • move to an aged care facility, or
  • move to a hospice when appropriate.

Whichever option you choose will require pre-planning, services to be available in your area, and discussion with family, friends, caregivers and professionals.

When it comes to the time for medical interventions, some may choose ‘life at all costs’ by accepting all forms of medical intervention designed to prolong a life; for others, there may be stages of an illness and life experience that no longer represents a quality of life.

Whichever options you choose for dying well, it is important to:

  • write down your wishes clearly in an Advance Care Directive
  • appoint an Enduring Guardian or Person Responsible to advocate for your choices when you can’t
  • talk to your doctor about the implications of the choices you have made, and
  • talk to your family and friends about your choices and explain why you have made them.

Remember, dying well is our human right, and only we have the power to ensure that we do so.