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‘Our fear of dying is sending the country broke’

By on September 13, 2014
Broke

David Celermajer 51-year-old eminent cardiologist, professor and heart specialist at Royal Prince Alfred says:

Broke

Broke

‘Our fear of dying is sending the country broke’

Yet in the name of commonsense he floats what he calls his ‘‘most dangerous idea’’

He wants every Australian, by the age of 70, to  draw up an advance care directive, specifying what level of care they should, or should not, receive should they become unable – through accident or illness – to communicate themselves. He believes this should be mandatory, and that if people don’t comply with this by the age of 73 then their Medicare card should  not be renewed.  The directives, he says, should be binding on family members.

He admits it all sounds ‘‘very draconian’’, but argues  ‘‘we have one of the best two or three healthcare systems in the world, and with that privilege comes responsibilities’’.

Put  simply, he says, ‘‘if we don’t do this, we are going to go broke’’.  He points out that  more than 50 per cent of acute-care hospital spending is on people in the last 12 to 18 months of their lives.  And more than half the deaths in intensive care are among ‘‘those with one or more serous chronic illnesses’’, many of whom, intensive care specialists believe, would be better cared for at home or in a palliative care environment.

Most Australians, he says, want to die at home yet more than 80 per cent die in hospital. The reason often is fear and panic among families unused to the dying in their midst.

‘‘No one lets anyone die any more,’’ he says. ‘‘People don’t see death any more …  it’s no longer regarded as part of the circle of life.’’

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