Dying: breaking a taboo

Up to 12 per cent of total healthcare budget spent on care in last year of life

 

A survey by the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) highlights people’s concerns around end-of-life issues. It found that most people want to be pain-free, to be treated with dignity, and to die comfortably at home. Dying alone, the risk of poverty at the end of life and concern for family left behind were among specific concerns mentioned by the 2,600 people surveyed.

Speaking at a conference at which the survey was published, retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness said that as citizens and as a society we need to break the taboo that surrounds death. She called for effective systems to be put in place to enable people to be personally more responsible in planning for death.

Pointing out that “up to €1.3 billion is being spent on end-of-life care and we don’t know whether it is being spent wisely”, she said that in the next 10 years more than 300,000 people would die in Ireland and three million would be bereaved.

Prof Jenny Kitzinger of the University of Cardiff told the conference one in three people would lose the ability to make their own decisions at end-of-life. And, significantly, she noted there was concern surrounding treatments and tests administered to older patients who are dying when it will make no difference to their survival. Almost one-third receive inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation while some 42 per cent are admitted to intensive care units. Research also confirms that one-third of older people are questionably treated with chemotherapy in their last six weeks of life. With up to 12 per cent of the total healthcare budget spent on care in the last year of life, the issue is clearly one of economic as well as ethical relevance.

Mrs Justice McGuinness urged people to fill in a Think Ahead document, which records care preferences in the event of emergency illness or death, when they cannot speak for themselves. The IHF plans to bring a Charter on Dying, Death and Bereavement to Government. As a progressive step forward, it should be acted on.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.