View all news

End of life care planning incomplete in LGBT community


Steve Spinks
6 August 2014
Despite the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, end-of-life care planning among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities remains incomplete, according to research by Southern Cross University.

Associate Professor Mark Hughes and Professor Colleen Cartwright, from the School of Arts and Social Sciences and the School of Health and Human Sciences, investigated the knowledge of and attitudes towards end-of-life care of 305 LGBT people living in NSW. A paper highlighting their findings was recently published in the Journal of Health and Social Care in the community.

“The research found that like the general population in Australia, the LGBT community had a limited understanding of their legal options when it came to end-of-life care,” Associate Professor Hughes said.

“The results showed that the majority of respondents to the survey were aware of three of the four key end-of-life care planning options available in NSW – that is enduring powers of attorney, enduring guardians and person responsible – while only a minority had heard of advance healthcare directives. Furthermore, only a small sample of those surveyed had actually taken up these options.

“Other findings included that only a minority of respondents were able to identify correctly a same-sex partner as the person who had the legal right to make treatment decisions in a scenario involving a woman who was unconscious following a car accident.

“Also, only a small proportion of people had discussed end-of-life care options with general practitioners or another main healthcare provider, and only in very few cases were these issues raised by the practitioners themselves.”

According to Associate Professor Hughes, one of the most concerning findings of the study was that some of the most vulnerable groups of the LGBT community were those most likely to feel uncomfortable discussing end-of-life issues.

“Younger people, those not fully open about their sexuality to family members, transgender people and others who do not define their gender as male or female, are the most likely to not feel comfortable discussing these issues with practitioners,” he said.

“The paper highlights the importance of education strategies to raise awareness of the end-of-life care planning options among LGBT people, as well as strategies for increasing health providers’ preparedness to discuss these issues with LGBT patients.”

Photo: Associate Professor Mark Hughes.