Heroics are not always about saving lives—but saving quality of life


Photo © Courtesy of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario

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Photo © Courtesy of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario

The importance of having Advance Care Planning conversations.

“It’s not just about the end of life; it’s about a time when we may not be able to communicate for ourselves, and having others understand us well enough to make healthcare decisions that we would make for ourselves.”

Dr.Kenneth Hook retired after 44 years of family practice. He got to know his patients and their families—in his office, in their homes, in the hospital during crises, in nursing homes, and at the end of life. He came to understand that often there was an essential conversation missing, and sometimes tragically so.

“In our experience we found that some patients got to the end of life with comfort, dignity, and respect. But we also saw others receiving treatments that seemed brutal and did not give them the life they wanted or the opportunity to close their life in a meaningful way—by completing important tasks, or saying goodbye to people who mattered to them. That can have a huge impact on those who are left behind. Sometimes for life.”

Dr. Hook, with his colleagues at the Star Family Health Team, began holding seminars for patients and their families to help them understand about Advance Care Planning (ACP)—the clinical term for something that is very much about love and quality of life.

By law, in Ontario, people can’t make advance health care directives. Instead, a Substitute Decision Maker (SDM), usually a family member, is asked to make healthcare decisions when a patient is unable to communicate. ACP is about talking to your SDM and making sure they understand what’s important to you in terms of quality of life. Healthcare decisions can’t be anticipated, and they aren’t always as cut and dried as “Do Not Resuscitate.”

“ACP is uniquely personal and very dependent on your stage of life. It’s important for both the patient and the SDM to talk often. It helps prevent feelings of stress, lingering doubts, and guilt for family members.”

Get ACP guidance speakupontario.ca

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Speak Up Ontario is an initiative of Hospice Palliative Care Ontario to improve awareness of Health Care Consent and Advance Care Planning in the Province of Ontario.


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