Dying in the 21st Century –
planning for a finite life

Urchins 3

4:40 pm - 5:00 pm

Stream 2: Partnerships in health

How do you want to live your life?

This is a question that is often posed with respect to our choices about lifestyle and our careers, but few of us apply it to how we might live out our life in the face of declining health and inevitable mortality. This presentation will explore how the successes of modern healthcare technology have made it so important that we take charge of our health decision-making to ensure that the treatment that we receive at the end of our life matches up with our expectations and goals.

The past 200 years has seen a remarkable prolongation of the human lifespan. Whereas 200 years ago about 30% of children died before the age of 10 years, now almost all children survive to become adults and less than 10% of us die before the age of 60 years. However, once we reach what we call old-age, our mortality starts to increase rapidly as more and more of us reach our maximum life-expectancy. This is the reality of healthcare in the 21st century.

While modern technology can do wonders to prolong our lives with quality, there comes a time for all of us when that is no longer possible. For most of us there is a period of time leading up to our death when choices need to be made about the kinds of interventions that we will receive. These choices need to be based on our goals, values and preferences. These are often best considered carefully and discussed with our family. They should be documented at a time when we have legal capacity as they may need to be acted upon when we have become unwell and unable to participate in decision-making. This presentation explores what we need to do to control our own health care.

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