Doctors given specialist advice on discussing matters of death

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FAMILY doctors are being given specialist advice on how to discuss matters of death with their patients because of the enduring reluctance of British people to talk about their own mortality.

Prof Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Dying Matters Coalition, which aims to support changing attitudes towards death and palliative care, said his organisation was now working with GPs to “increase their confidence” about discussing end-of-life care with their patients – many of whom still see death as something of a taboo subject.

The coalition, which is led by the National Council for Palliative Care, today publishes the results of a new survey revealing most British people have never discussed the way they would like to end their lives with either their partner or their parents.

The study also found that although the most people polled in Yorkshire believe talking about death is now less of a taboo than it was 20 years ago, almost two-thirds agree British people are still uncomfortable when it comes to discussing dying.

Prof Lakhani said: “As a practising GP, I know many people are frightened to talk about dying – but avoiding the subject is not in any of our interests.”

At the outset of the project, 60 per cent of participating GPs said they were “not confident” or “not very confident” in initiating discussions on end-of-life. By the close of the study, however 86 per cent reported they felt “confident” or “very confident” about opening such conversations.

The online study of more than 2,000 British adults found only around one in five people have discussed the type of care or support they would want at the end of their lives with their partner Only a third of people have discussed the type of funeral they want, and just 17 per cent have talked about whether they would like to die at home or in hospital.

Just one in four people have spoken to their parents about whether they have made a will.