In this week’s Scrubbing Up opinion column, Prof Mayur Lakhani chair of the Dying Matters Coalition, urges doctors to be more open and frank about preparing patients and their families for the end of life.
Imagine a situation where most people with a common condition are undiagnosed and where opportunities are repeatedly missed to identify the problem and to offer good care.
What is this condition? It’s dying.
Each year, an estimated 92,000 people in England are believed to need end of life care but not receive it.
As a practising GP I have seen distressed relatives after a patient has died in hospital.
Often they have not had a chance to see their relative before they died and were unaware of the seriousness of the condition, despite repeated admissions with deteriorating conditions.
Many such patients are never formally identified as at risk of dying and not assessed for end of life care.
One relative said something that haunts me to this day: “I wish the doctors had told me that my mother was dying.”
As a result too many people still die in distress with uncontrolled symptoms, or have futile interventions when this will not make any difference.
All of us, including doctors, must do more to talk about dying.