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Serious illness conversation patient letter example

16th November, 2021

The text below can be used as a template for a letter to patients, outlining the purpose and process of a serious illness conversation.

Preparing the patient for the conversation: A script for a pre-visit conversation or letter

Some clinicians prefer to send a letter to patients, outlining the purpose and process of a serious illness conversation. Others prefer to talk with the patient about it before scheduling it. Here is a script or letter that you can adapt to your own style.

At your next appointment, [clinician’s name] would like to talk with you about your illness and some of the things that are particularly important to you, so together we can provide the best possible treatment and care. Working with you [and your whānau or others who you wish to include] to establish what is important and how you would like to receive care means that we can plan ahead together.

By planning ahead, while you are feeling well, we hope that you will feel less anxious and more comfortable as your illness progresses.

We have put together the following questions for you to consider yourself or with your whānau before your appointment with [clinician’s name]:

  • What would you like to know about your illness and what may be ahead?
  • What kind of information would help you make decisions about your future?
  • What is most important for you to have a good quality of life?
  • What/who supports you as you deal with your illness?
  • Are there kinds of medical care that you do not want?
  • Have you thought about sharing these thoughts or other aspects of your illness with your whānau?

We suggest identifying someone who can advocate or make decisions on your behalf if you are too unwell. Have a think about who this person might be for you.

Please bring to the appointment whoever you would like to be a part of this important conversation. It’s often helpful having others there so you can continue the conversation together afterwards.

This is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation. We know that you may have other questions or concerns in the future. We will keep being here to support you and answer your questions so that you can make informed decisions and we can provide you with the very best care for you. If you have questions before your visit, please contact: XXX

Last updated: 16th November, 2021