The ACT Government has been advised to develop a "Dummies Guide to Death". Photo: Louise Kennerley
The ACT government has been advised to develop a ''dummies guide to death'' and an education program for children and adults about end-of-life issues.
A report on end-of-life planning, to be published on Tuesday, also calls for law reforms to make advanced care planning simpler and less daunting for Canberrans.
The ACT Local Hospital Network Council report says Canberrans are largely unaware of advanced care plans and how to guide decisions about care at the end of their life.
The report says ''management of death should be a public health issue'' and recommends a government campaign to increase awareness of what end of life means, when it might start and to ''counter the myth that medicine can save people all the time''.
It calls on the government to normalise discussion about death and end-of-life planning by offering education and information at schools, universities, workplaces and GPs' practices.
The report suggests a ''dummies guide to death'' be developed and that Canberrans be educated on how to create an advanced care plan, which communicates how they want to be cared for at the end of their life.
ACT Local Hospital Network Council chairman Ian Pryor said the report recommended changes to ACT legislation to make planning for end-of-life care simpler and clearer.
Dr Pryor said the existing legislation was ''jargonistic and hard for lay people to understand''.
The report calls for law reform, if necessary, to ensure advanced care plans are adhered to and to give confidence to patients that their wishes will be followed. It also recommends greater protections for health professionals who ''choose not [to] give futile treatment''.
''People who are utilising advanced care plans need to know they're protected in case something should happen,'' Dr Pryor said. ''All people working in the health system should be aware of this process.
''They need to know how to instigate it and help someone get a plan and, where there is a plan, how to make sure it happens.''
Dr Pryor said patients, their families, carers and healthcare providers also needed to learn to recognise when medical care was futile.
The report says ''advanced care planning was not the only solution'' and sometimes medical care will not extend the patient's quality of life.
''There should be clear processes developed, backed by the health service and with suitable safeguards that acknowledge such care is pointless and wasteful of health system resources,'' the report says.
The health network said the processes should allow for the withdrawal of all interventions except for palliative ones.
''Patients, family, carers need to understand what futile care is,'' Dr Pryor said. ''They need to recognise when care is useful for a patient or whether they'd be better off with palliative care.''
Under federal law, the ACT is forbidden from introducing euthanasia.