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IHF urges people to consider Advance Healthcare Planning


{Tuesday 12 May 2020}: The Irish Hospice Foundation is urging people to examine their options for Advance Healthcare Planning, especially surrounding preferences for treatment.

The concept of planning ahead for life and death is not a new one. Discussed around dinner tables, in solicitors’ offices or by people’s bedsides, conversations regarding financial, legal, cultural and other personal areas have been discussed and thought through. It is just now these conversations have been given the name of Advance Care Planning.

Advance Planning for every individual is a process, not a once-off event and enables people to think, record and share with others their wishes so they are heard and understood, should a time come when they cannot speak for themselves.

Sharon Foley, CEO of the Irish Hospice Foundation said: “Unfortunately for many people, the concept of putting plans in place only comes into focus when they have been jolted by a diagnosis that brings living and dying into a new light. For many of us that jolt is happening now, during COVID-19”.

“We all have a right to be involved in decision-making about our healthcare and treatment choices. This right is applicable to us regardless of illness, age, ability or disability. Engaging in Advance Care Planning is one way that we can remain involved in our decision-making.”

When people think about planning ahead the first things that come to mind are usually writing a will or creating an Enduring Power of Attorney. However, some people wish to be more specific and seriously consider what treatments they would not like to receive in the future and write these down in an Advance Healthcare Directive (AHD).

2015 legislation, The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act (ADMA), when fully commenced will provide a firmer legal framework to support the use of AHDs in Ireland. It also indicates that a register of AHDs may be established. The Irish Hospice Foundation believe the register is key to the success of part eight of this legislation.

Sharon continues: “Those of us who write an AHD need reassurance that it will be accessible by health and social care professionals and health and social care professionals need to access AHDs in an emergency to provide the best care for that person. However, this legislation, though enacted is not fully commenced. It needs to be commenced as soon as possible.”

“We all have a responsibility to ensure each citizen of Ireland is heard and seen as a person with views, values, wishes and opinions about the care they wish to receive or wish not to receive. Real people with real lives, real opinions, real beliefs and real values. Advance Care planning should be used to encourage all of us to think, talk, tell and prepare what is important to us and to record choices and direct our care. Now is as good a time as any to do this.”

The Decision Support Service (DSS) is also urging people to articulate their wishes in relation to decisions such as future medical treatment. The DSS, though not fully functional, was established under the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015. One way that people can plan for their future is by using the Irish Hospice Foundation’s Think Ahead form.