A day for ‘conversations that count’ about end-of-life care

16 Apr 2015

David Galler describes keeping his promise to honour his mother’s final wishes about how she was cared for before she died as the best thing he has ever done.

Now Dr Galler, an intensive care specialist at Middlemore Hospital, clinical director at Ko Awatea centre for health system innovation and improvement, and board member of the Health Quality & Safety Commission, is urging other New Zealanders to do as his mother did and make sure family/whānau and friends know what’s important for them when being treated.

Today is Conversations that Count Day, organised by the National Advance Care Planning Cooperative (ACP) to prompt people to talk with their ‘partner, a mate, with the girls over lunch, or around the barbie’ about the kind of care they would want if they were seriously ill or at the end of their life.

The ACP website (www.advancecareplanning.org.nz) has resources to help start the conversation and prepare a written advance care plan.

Doing so is especially important for people who have health problems, have been diagnosed with a serious illness, or are older, but younger people should also think about a plan, because anyone can be affected by an accident or illness, and they may be unable to speak for themselves later.

'So often the path will take strange and unexpected turns,’ says Dr Galler. ‘Things we may never have anticipated happen. We can’t plan specifically for each one of those but through “conversations that count” we can equip our family/whānau and friends with the guiding principles to help them know they are making the right choices for us. So start now.’

Zofia Galler, 83, was very clear about what she wanted in her final weeks, Dr Galler says in a Commission video about their experience.

They ‘boiled it down to three factors: not going to hospital unless she really had to for comfort and pain relief; being surrounded by her family when she needed her family there and when she wanted her family there; and to be kept out of pain.

‘Having that conversation with families is crucial if you want to get to the right end point for that particular family and that particular individual.’

Dr Galler says: ‘I think it’s pretty clear to most people we only die once – it’s pretty important to make it a good death.’

Dr Galler will be talking to American health writer Atul Gawande at the Auckland Writers Festival on Saturday 16 May at 5.30pm, discussing Dr Gawande’s latest international bestseller, Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End, which is about advance care planning and end-of-life care. Tickets (from $15) are available from www.ticketmaster.co.nz.

Dr Gawande will give a Commission-hosted public lecture on the subject at Shed 6, Wellington waterfront, on Monday 18 May at 6pm. The lecture is supported by PwC, with thanks to the Auckland Writers Festival. Tickets ($10 plus booking fee) are available from www.ticketek.co.nz, 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) and Ticketek outlets (see website for addresses).


Last updated 16/04/2015