New pathway empowers patients facing end-of-life in SA

18 October, 2016

South Australians can have greater confidence about how end-of-life care is delivered to them under a new SA Health framework announced recently.

The Resuscitation Plan – 7 Step Pathway supports patients in the final stages of their life by improving the translation of their values, priorities and wishes about end-of-life care into clear clinical instructions that can be accessed wherever they are being cared for in the health system.

Federal AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee Chair Dr Chris Moy, GP, said all patients can be confident that treatment will be provided to maintain their comfort and dignity as they are dying.

"Patients can be confident their refusals of unwanted life-prolonging treatment and procedures will be properly documented and respected," Dr Moy said.

The announcement of this new framework follows significant consultation with GPs, residential aged care facilities, unions and consumers over the past six years.

"The Resuscitation Plan – 7 Step Pathway is a process that provides a standardised, patient-centred, best-practice approach to resuscitation and end-of-life care planning and documentation," Dr Moy said.

"It supports consultation, consideration of the patient’s wishes, and transparency about decisions regarding resuscitation and end-of-life care for patients, carers and family.

"The time approaching end-of-life is one which is extremely emotional and frightening for patients and their families.

"Some of this can stem from a lack of certainty about what will happen to the patient in their last days, but also fear of symptoms such as pain and loss of dignity."

The Resuscitation Plan – 7 Step Pathway ensures that doctors work together with patients and their families in planning for this time, so that patients can have confidence that their wishes and values will be respected and upheld during the final stages of their lives, including, for example, wishes to die at home.

SA Health’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paddy Phillips said an essential part of this planning includes the assurance of treatment for distressing symptoms that the patient may suffer as they die, hopefully allaying some of their understandable fears regarding this period.

"Early resuscitation planning is important as it can help an individual avoid traumatic and unwanted treatment and procedures when they are dying," Professor Phillips said.

"The benefits to the plan extend to relieving the patient’s loved ones of having to make stressful life or death decisions in distressing emergency situations, and supports the patient’s right to die with respect, dignity and comfort."

While some individuals have strong beliefs on resuscitation, those who are unsure are encouraged to speak to their family, Substitute Decision Makers, Persons Responsible or healthcare professionals, and can visit for more information.