Learn how to let go of our dying, gracefully

Dr Kim Bulwinkel
Dr Kim Bulwinkel Sharyn O'Neill

KIM Bulwinkel says the delivery of appropriate end-of-life care is a conversation every community has to have.

The Rockhampton surgeon has applauded new AMA Queensland president Shaun Rudd for focusing on the issue.

He said the matter was becoming increasingly relevant because of Australia's aging population.

Dr Rudd, a GP for more than 35 years, said having a good death was just as important as having a good life.

"Too much of our health budget is spent on futile end-of-life care," he said.

"Unwanted and unnecessary emergency care strips patients of a dignified death and diverts medical services away from healthier people.

"We need to change the attitude that stopping medical treatment is a failure and make sure that all patients have the chance to sign an advanced care directive, or living will."

Dr Bulwinkel agreed with Dr Rudd in that in far too many instances, life-saving or life-prolonging treatment was administered at extraordinary expense only to produce a poor quality of life for the patient.

Medicos were often torn between what they can do and what they should do.

"Knowing that we now have such a huge range of interventions available to keep somebody alive, we often feel obliged to use them," Dr Bulwinkel said.

"But is it really right that a patient should expect communities to provide intensive care, at the cost of $2500 to $3000 a day, for an outcome that will not necessarily be good?

"We need to have a sensible conversation about what we are doing, what we can do and, importantly, what we should do."

Topics:  ama editors picks kim bulwinkel

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