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Respecting wishes at the end stage of life


Zuleika Henderson
28 February 2011
Doctors, healthcare professionals and members of the community are being invited to attend a workshop to learn more about how planning in advance can help address ethical and legal issues, and ensure wishes are respected at the end stage of our lives.

Entitled ‘Advance Care Planning – what you don’t know CAN harm you!’ the workshops will be presented by Professor Colleen Cartwright, director of ASLaRC Aged Services Unit at Southern Cross University, throughout March at the Southern Cross University campuses at the Gold Coast, Lismore and Coffs Harbour. The workshops are part of a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) series hosted by the University, and nurses and other health and allied health professionals can gain CPD points for attending.

“Planning for times when individuals are unable to speak for themselves because of accident or illness can be a confronting issue, but one that is important to address,” said Professor Cartwright.

“Advance Care Planning assists people to record their wishes with regards to what medical treatment they want or don't want to receive in the event of a terminal illness or injury, and to appoint someone to ensure their intentions are respected.

“It is a process that can provide comfort and certainty to patients or aged care facility residents, their families as well as their nurses, GPs and other health care providers.

“I will be explaining in simple terms what the legal requirements are for implementing Advance Care Planning, who has the legal right to make decisions for someone who has not planned in advance, and even clarify what is and isn’t euthanasia – an issue which often confuses the process.”

Professor Colleen Cartwright has extensive experience in ageing, ethics and medical decisions at the end-of-life on a national and international level, with publications in major journals and a number of book chapters.

She designed the Advance Care Health Directive and Enduring Power of Attorney forms that are part of the Queensland Powers of Attorney Act and has since modified them for use in NSW. She regularly runs information and training sessions and has been a member of the Australian Association of Gerontology for more than 20 years.

“Advance Care Planning gives people the opportunity to say at what point treatment should stop in the event of a life-threatening illness or injury,” said Professor Cartwright.

“For example, it gives people the choice to say that if they have a terminal illness and their heart stops, that they do not want to be revived, or that they do not want to be put on a permanent ventilator.

“It gives them certainty that people will know their wishes and it takes away those difficult decisions from family members.

"Times of trauma bring about the best and worst in families. We should be trying to avoid the bitterness that can result from disagreements about medical treatment.

“We want to raise awareness within the general community and in the legal and medical world about people’s rights and what legal mechanisms exist in relation to medical decisions at the end-of-life.”

‘Advance Care Planning – what you don’t know CAN harm you!’ workshops will take place the Southern Cross University Lismore campus on Saturday, March 19, at the Gold Coast campus on Friday, March 25, and at the Coffs Harbour campus on Tuesday, March 29. All workshops will run from 9am-2.30pm local time. The event is Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points accredited and healthcare professionals to the event may claim 4 CPD hours. The cost of the workshop is $195 for early bird registrations and $225 for late registrations. Morning tea and a light lunch are provided.

For more information or to attend call 02 6620 3634 or email [email protected].

Photo:Professor Colleen Cartwright will host the Advance Care Planning workshops in Lismore, Coffs Harbour and on the Gold Coast in the coming month(high resolution image available on request).