Death wishes to go on electronic record

People will be able to store their dying wishes on an electronic record, accessible to their chosen doctors, hospitals or family members. Photo: Karl HilzingerPeople will soon be able to record their dying wishes, such as whether they want to be resuscitated or kept alive by a life support system, on their electronic health record.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced the changes on Thursday as part of a $10 million Commonwealth commitment to allow people to store so-called Advance Care Directives on their electronic health record.

“Most families want to be true to the wishes of their loved ones as they approach the end of their lives, and Advanced Care Directives allow that to happen,” Ms Plibersek said.

Ms Plibersek said by storing their wishes on an electronic record, people would be able to share their plans with chosen doctors, hospitals, family members or carers.

“Because it’s online, the advance care plan will be easily available,” Ms Plibersek said.

“For example, if an elderly man from the Gold Coast is admitted to a hospital while visiting his family in Melbourne, his treating doctors and nurses would have access to information about his end of life care wishes.”

An Advanced Care Directive can include whether a person wishes to be resuscitated, whether they wish to be fed intravenously or by a tube, and whether they want to be kept alive by a breathing machine or a life support system.

Ms Plibersek said it was difficult for patients, their families and health professionals to talk about how a person wanted to spend their final days.

“But having patient intentions clearly expressed in an advanced care plan will make it easier for their wishes to be met,” she said.

Bill Silvester, president of the International Society of Advance Care Planning and End of Life Care, welcomed the announcement, which he said would guarantee patients stayed in charge of their care.

“If a patient is admitted to hospital, doctors will be able to see exact details of their wishes for end-of-life care,” he said.

“It ensures that the patient stays front and centre and maintains control of what will be happening to them when they can no longer speak for themselves,” Associate Professor Silvester said.

Ms Plibersek also announced the Commonwealth would provide $800,000 over two years for an advance care planning project led by Associate Professor Silvester.

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