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Planning ahead

Do you feel weird talking about your own death? You shouldn't

A new study has found that, in a GP setting anyway, most people aren’t.

MOST PEOPLE HAVE no problem talking about the care they will receive towards the end of their life and a new project is seeking to encourage people to do so with their GPs.

A Trinity College study published this month by the Irish Medical Journal involved 100 clinically stable patients across five GP practices. The patients filled out a “Think Ahead” form which asked them to consider and record their preferences regarding their own end-of-life care.

The purpose of the study was less about finding out their preferences but in measuring how comfortable people were discussing their own mortality.

The Irish Hospice Foundation and and the Forum on End of Life in Ireland supported the study and sought to determine if a routine GP visit was an appropriate arena to discuss end-of-life care.

Those who filled out the form were then asked in a follow-up phone interview about their experiences of doing so.

The results of the study found that 63% of people reported “no difficulty” in completing the form, while 74% indicated that completing the form did not cause them upset. Perhaps most pertinently, reading the form led to 83% of people discussing end-of-life planning with family members.

“Dr O’Shea’s research shows a very positive response from the public to the notion of planning ahead,” said Justice Catherine McGuinness of the Forum on End of Life. “End-of-life discussions can be uncomfortable for many of us but they are essential on a societal as well as a personal level.”

Sharon Foley of the Irish Hospice Foundation says that there had been a year-long consultation process ahead of this publication which showed that there was a demand for greater information.

Copies of Think Ahead are available from the End of Life forum’s website

Opinion: Let’s talk about death (no, seriously) >

Read: 2,500 patients a year are denied access to hospice services >

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