Campaign urges end of life planning

TAKING THE LEAD: Peter Dixon, 56, who has chronic renal failure, says his ACP has given him "peace of mind" that his wishes will be adhered to as he nears death.
TAKING THE LEAD: Peter Dixon, 56, who has chronic renal failure, says his ACP has given him "peace of mind" that his wishes will be adhered to as he nears death.

It is time to think about your death care.

Today marks New Zealand's first Conversations that Count day - a national awareness campaign aimed at encouraging Kiwis to plan their end of life care.

Advance care planning (ACP) is a controversial new concept giving patients control over their own death, including the ability to decline lifesaving treatment in order to die naturally.

Through ACP, patients talk with health professionals and their families about how they want to die, knowing they will probably lose the capacity to make their own decisions as they near death.

In a tick-the-box application form, patients outline their values and beliefs, choose where they want to be when the time comes, if they want family members around and whether they want feeding or breathing tubes in their final days.

Discussing your own death care is one of the most important Conversations that Count in your lifetime, Canterbury District Health Board ACP co-ordinator Jane Goodwin said.

"Conversations that Count is about having a chat with your friends and family and letting them know what it is you would like to have happen at the end of your life. For example, it's discussing everything from what's important to you as you get older to whether you want to be an organ donor."

Once developed, an ACP can be stored alongside a patient's medical records, giving clinicians information about what kind of treatment or care a patient would want when they may be unable to speak for themselves.

Christchurch father Peter Dixon, 56, has chronic renal failure and filled out his ACP about a month ago.

The binding document has given him "peace of mind" that his wishes will be adhered to as he nears death.

"No matter what health status we may be in, an ACP is something that is on your medical file that tells the medical profession exactly what you want to have happen. "I've had a lot of discussions about what I want to happen at the end of my life with my family and having an ACP is reassuring me that doctors aren't going to intervene at the end of my life against my wishes," he said. "Not everyone's wishes are that they want to survive no matter what."

Dixon encouraged other people to have the same conversation with their families and create an ACP.

For more information about the ACP concept, visit conversationsthatcount.org.nz

The Press