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A Good Life to the End

Recently the author of this book, featured on, “Conversations with Richard Fidler” on ABC radio. It was an illuminating discussion as stories from Ken’s past helped to make sense of his practical nature and the thoughtful way he has come to conclusions about the ending of our lives, from a medical perspective. When he approached publishers about the book they told him that no- one wanted to read about dying, and how it should be managed. He felt so strongly about this topic that he wrote the book anyway. Ken is a Professor of Intensive Care at the University of New South Wales, and is passionate about improving the management of the dying patients in acute hospitals.

 The professor’s first glimpse of death was when his grandfather died at home, quietly and expectedly. Most people at that time did die at home. That was when the family doctor, with his standard case and contents would pop in to see you. Now we have such sophisticated equipment, and specialized doctors, that elderly patients are taken to hospital and cared for by a heart specialist, or kidney specialist, or lung specialist. Is it time to assess the whole person, and say they are frail?  Maybe being attached to tubes and machines isn’t a way they would choose to end their life; maybe being peacefully at home with family would be preferable. This discussion would have to take place with the patient and the family.

 The difficult part of this conversation with the patient and family, needs to looked in to by the Medical Profession, says the author. For example, if relatives are told that their mother will die if she doesn’t have dialysis, because her kidneys have shut down, it would be a hard call for the family. Again, looking at the whole person, and the state of their body and life, is needed, rather than prolong and extend a life with technological intervention. Having the open discussion with the patient and all the family is vital.

 The author quotes many cases he has had experiences with. A woman whose husband fell onto her shoulder as she was driving was one.  She could see he was dead, and knew that he would not want to be resuscitated. She kept driving for a while, and then eventually arrived at her local doctor’s surgery. The doctor came out and realized the man was dead, and past revival. It was very peaceful and the wife knew she was following her husband’s wishes.

 After this fascinating discussion on the frail and elderly and death, the concluding chapters deal with how to choose a good doctor and a good hospital. There are many tips and helpful angles to investigate. The doctor concludes that we may be causing suffering in the elderly and frail, which have come to the end of their life and just need a calm ending.

Author Ken Hillman
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760294816
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released July 2017