On the 19th of October The Royal College of Physicians released a report on how doctors can approach conversations about dying, what families want from these conversations and the steps we can take to make sure everyone knows what’s happening.
The report, Talking about dying, offers advice and support for doctors and medical staff on how to have conversations with their patients about dying. The whole idea is to get the conversation going as early on as possible for patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal or progressive condition.
The report recommended that doctors and medical staff should first ask if the patient wants to actually have the conversation. They should then find out just how much detail the patient wants the medical professional to go into.
Doctors were also encouraged to talk openly about the future with their patients at any time. That means the conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be wrapped up in one sitting. If the patient wants to approach conversation in several smaller chunks of time then that should also be encouraged.
At huunuu we are all about encouraging people to have conversations about death and dying. We bridge the gap between the clinical and the emotional - providing a safe platform for patients and their families to have private conversations about death, plan their funerals and even tick some activities off their bucket lists!
If people don’t have these crucial conversations with their families then communications can break down. For example, you may not know your family member wanted to be an organ donor...the only way you’d know is if you have the conversation.
Research by Macmillan cancer Support shows that a tiny 8% of people with cancer have talked about death with their healthcare team. This is worrying as it shows healthcare wishes are not being met - simply because no one is talking about it. Some people may not wish to be resuscitated - but they may not have told their loved ones or their healthcare team about this. That means some people may be resuscitated against their wishes - which is upsetting for both the individual and their family.
There are so many reasons why people avoid having conversations about death. This may include superstition, religion or just plain awkwardness. huunuu is helping to break down these barriers so people can find it easier to open up about death and dying. After all, the Talking about dying report claims that 77% of people in England would want to know if they had a year left to live!
In summary, we applaud the new advice for doctors when it comes to having conversations about dying. However we need to ensure they are equipped with the correct tools and support in order to achieve this. As the report states, culture, confidence and practicalities are all barriers to doctors starting these conversations, so knowing how, who and when is crucial...and huunuu can be a big part of that.