AFTER watching her parents die months apart with distressing interventions, Mabel Cheng decided she would not want that to happen to her or her children.
“My sister was asked by a doctor ‘how far do you want me to go’ when my mother was dying,” she said.
“The doctor kept treating my mother before my sister could answer.
“It was upsetting to see.”
The largest international review of end of life treatment was published at the end of June, revealing more than a third of elderly patients hospitalised in their dying days received aggressive, non-beneficial medical treatments.
The University of NSW review found widespread use of invasive treatments in the final six months of life including surgeries and even CPR when there was a ‘do not resuscitate’ order in place.
Monday, August 8, is Dying to Know Day, an annual celebration of a good quality of life.
It kicks off a month of activities encouraging people to bring to life conversations on dying and bereavement.
Dr Magnolia Cardona-Morrell from the University of NSW said more than 70 per cent of Australians die in hospital even though the majority would prefer to die at home.
“They end up in hosptial then have all these aggressive treatments and they end up prolonging death, not life,” she said.
“The good news is: it is possible to prevent unnecessary suffering if we are open about our fears and preferences.
“It is possible to leave clear instructions with family and our doctors on our decisions in an advance care directive before we end up in hospital and someone has to make those difficult decisions on our behalf.”
It was those difficult decisions regarding care, as well as the more practical organisation of an unplanned death, that made Mrs Cheng, of Eleebana, determined to develop her own end of life plan.
Her father was 93 when he died in June 2014 and her mother was 89 when she died in the September.
Her father, Kwan Fung suffered Alzheimer’s but his death was sudden while the death of his wife, Yuet Ying Fung was more expected.
“But no matter what people advise you, when the situation does come up, you’re still not prepared,” Mrs Cheng said.
She said many people were reluctant to talk about death out of fear.
“We can plan our lives, we can plan our wedding and where to go to study and lots of things,” she said.
“We should also plan our deaths.
“You don’t know when you will die. You need to do it to save the trouble for your family.”
For more information visit www.dyingtoknowday.org.