Guidelines for the ethical management of people with advanced chronic or terminal conditions in the final months of life [NHMRC]

Many people of all ages are diagnosed with chronic or terminal conditions every year. The NHMRC has released two documents to assist with the difficult ethical deliberations about the care of terminal conditions.

An ethical framework for integrating palliative care principles into the management of advanced chronic or terminal conditions is intended for health professionals and has been designed to guide deliberations over ethical aspects of providing care at the transition phase of a patient's journey through an advanced chronic or terminal condition, including cancer.

Living Well With an Advanced Chronic or Terminal Condition: How Ethics Helps is intended for patients (of all ages), families and carers and has been designed to facilitate what can be difficult conversations about ethically related issues which arise at this time of transition e.g. preferred type and place of care - hospice, hospital, or home.

Both the framework and the guide identify key ethical principles and values relevant to the last twelve months or so of life for those with an advanced chronic or terminal condition making the transition to palliative care. The documents pose some questions which can be explored at any stage of this transition whether as patients, health professionals, family or carers. They also provide additional resources via web-links to assist health professionals, patients, carers or family members to access further information and advice for deliberations about the ethical aspects of the palliative care being provided.

The ethical principles and values described in these documents were developed from a consultation process between 2008 & 2010. It became clear that there was a gap in the literature around what has been termed a "transition phase". This is the period when individuals with advanced chronic or terminal conditions became aware that the final phase of life is approaching but death is not yet imminent - typically twelve months or so prior to death. The framework and the guide were developed in light of the submissions received to address that gap.

Media Release - Living well in the last months of life

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