Booklet on death and dying is leading edge

Monday, 18 November 2002

In what is clearly a first in Australia and possibly the world, The University of Adelaide's Department of General Practice has produced a booklet dealing with talking about death and dying with patients.

Prepared by Ms. Teresa Burgess and the head of the department Professor Justin Beilby, and Dr. Mary Brooksbank from the Royal Adelaide Hospital's Palliative Care Unit, the booklet is entitled "Talking to patients about death and dying".

It was developed using a comprehensive literature review, focus groups with a variety of urban and rural General Practitioners and extensive consultation with key stakeholders in the areas of general practice and palliative care. The project was funded by the Department of Human Services.

"Talking about death and dying can be an extremely difficult process for the medical practitioner and their patients," says Professor Beilby. "One of the booklet's aims, which has been circulated to South Australia's general practitioners, is to assist them explore the patient's perception of their illness and prognosis and plan for their end-of-life care."

In many Australian states, Parliament has enacted laws that give patients the right to make known their wishes regarding their end-of- life care.

"Palliative care has provided a process for medical practitioners, nurses, allied health workers, patients and their families to work together to make the patient's last days as comfortable as possible," Professor Beilby says.

The material addresses what patients have identified as the characteristics that make up quality care towards the end of their lives. This includes receiving adequate pain and symptom management, avoiding inappropriate prolongation of dying, achieving a sense of control, preparation for death and completion (attending to unfinished business and saying goodbye).

The booklet is divided into two sections. The first section deals with talking about death and dying with terminally ill patients. The latter addresses advance health care directives with both healthy people and the terminally ill.


Contact Details

Professor Justin Beilby
Head of the Department of General Practice
University of Adelaide
Business: +61 08 8313 3460
Mobile: 0403 017 457

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814