Published on: October 20, 2010

There is a fantastic article on Palliative Care and End-of-Life issues in the October 2010 issue of Reader’s Digest Australia by Helen Signy:

A Good End

Each year half a million Australians experience the impact of a terminal illness as patients, carers or family members – yet talking about dying is not something that comes naturally to the majority of us.

Facing up to death is difficult, but for the individual who knows his or her life is drawing to a close, being able to communicate openly and honestly with family and friends is often of immeasurable comfort.

“For terminally ill people it’s a very lonely, isolated experience because no-one else really can know what it’s like to know that time is limited,” says Suzanne Clementi, a counsellor at Brisbane’s Karuna Hospice Service, which offers home-based palliative care. “Everyone tries to protect themselves by not talking about it. Often I find it’s the people who are more honest and talk about it openly who are the ones who cope better.”

Medical intervention can often control pain, yet the lack of awareness about how to die well that troubles health advocates.

Palliative Care Australia CEO Donna Daniell says many Australians are unsure what to expect at the end of their lives: they don’t know where to find support, and they fail to plan in advance. “We need to get the conversation going so we can work towards a better death,” she says.

Here, four people who are facing death talk about their experiences: