Research, "Plan Well, Die Well", published by the charity Compassion in Dying revealed that one in five dying patients receive treatment their friends and family say they would not have wanted, with almost half (47%) feeling that their loved one had a bad death. The results are based upon a YouGov poll of around 2,000 people and an analysis of users of Compassion in Dying's free information service.
Analysis of the thousands of enquiries to Compassion in Dying's information service, which offers free support to complete advance care planning documents, has shown the value of providing timely and accurate support for end-of-life planning. Over three quarters (76%) of people contacting the service went on to make an Advance Decision and 23% made a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. Further, over two-thirds of service users discussed their wishes with the doctor and had their Advance Decision stored with their medical records.
The YouGov research found that having end-of-life wishes recorded on their medical records can make a crucial difference in having the 'good death' the dying person would want. Where patients' wishes were recorded, they were 41% more likely to be judged by loved ones to have died well. Where such wishes were not recorded, loved ones were 53% more likely to feel that the patient received treatment they would not have wanted. Findings also suggest that recording end-of-life wishes could reduce avoidable hospital admissions.
The report makes a number of recommendations to address the significant barriers to enabling person-centred end-of-life care, including the lack of a formal centralised system for recording end-of-life wishes, lack of awareness amongst healthcare professionals and lack of support to help people complete advance planning documents.
Davina Hehir, Director of Policy at Compassion in Dying said:
"It is incredibly shocking that so many people say that their dying friend or relative received medical treatment that they did not want. Through Compassion in Dying's free information service we support over 12,000 people a year to have their wishes for the end of the life formalised in Advance Decisions, but we know this is only a small fraction of those who would benefit from making such plans.
"This research demonstrates that recording your wishes in advance does, however, make it significantly more likely you'll have a good death - one where you receive the treatment that is right for you. We therefore encourage everyone to ensure they access the free resources we have made available to make their wishes not only known, but legally binding.
"We will work with other voluntary and public sector stakeholders to ensure that people are supported to plan ahead and get the end-of-life care that is right for them."