Following the British Medical Journal’s website discussion about death and dying, Dr Chris Browne who edits the health and fitness section of My Last Song, has put out a statement saying that doctors treating the very old or terminally ill should encourage them to write their own personal death plans.
“The reluctance of patients and their families to discuss death as the likely outcome of an illness or because of old age makes their end of life medical management more difficult.
“If by filling in a death plan the patient, the family and the appropriate health professionals have a more meaningful discussion, the result is likely to be a more positive approach with obvious benefits for the patient, their loved ones and the medical staff treating them.
“By having a personal death plan, the patient and the family will be more reassured that the time leading up to the final moments will be as comfortable and comforting as possible.
“As a GP I believe that death plans should be encouraged as a way of changing attitudes towards death and dying.”
Within the Lifebox section of My Last Song is a death plan templatewhich allows people to state:
- how much they want to be told about their condition,
- where they want to die,
- the level of medical intervention they want,
- who they want to be responsible for their end of life treatment,
- who they want to visit them when they are dying,
- who should be there when they die,
- what they want to hear, (music, poetry, drama, prayers…),
- what they want to smell (incense, scented candles, oils, flowers…),
- how they want to be touched (hand held, caressed, gentle massage…),
- issues to be cleared up so they have no worries at the end (knowing their loved ones, pets are cared for, their estate is in order, their will is up to date…).
Too many people still die a lonely, impersonal and frightening death which reinforces society’s reluctance to discuss the subject. We only die once so it should be, if possible, the experience we want it to be. Personalised death plans will make that more likely.
Thankfully there is now a concerted move to reduce the taboo surrounding death. The Dying Matters Coalition, of which My Last Song is a member, is spearheading this change of attitude towards dying, death and bereavement.
On 1 July, the General Medical Council published Treatment and Care Towards the End of Life, recommending that death should become an explicit discussion point when patients are likely to die within 12 months.
Then in September, the BMJ’s website published a piece called We’re All Going to Die. Deal with it which highlighted the need for candid discussion about palliative care and end of life medical treatment.
My Last Song supports visitors to address all their end of life issues, put their legal and financial affairs in order, organise their care options and plan their own funerals.
This information can be stored in a secure online Lifebox. Only the Lifebox owners can store and edit the information until they give permission to a close family member to open it, normally towards the end of their lives or on their death.