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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 50-54

Can hospital doctors provide quality palliative care informed by end-of-life care legislation: An Australian perspective

1 Department of Palliative Care, Eastern Health, 5 Arnold St, Box Hill; Department of Palliative Care, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, 305 Grattan St, Melbourne Victoria, Australia
2 Department of Medical Education, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
3 Department of Palliative Care, Eastern Health, 5 Arnold St, Box Hill, Victoria; Department of Palliative Care, Launceston General Hospital, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Aaron K Wong
Department of Palliative Care, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, 305 Grattan St, Melbourne, Victoria 3000
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/amhs.amhs_231_20

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Background and Aim: Approximately 50% of deaths in Australia occur in hospitals, and this number is growing. Studies consistently show that doctors have poor knowledge of end-of-life decision making; however, this has not been examined in specific groups of hospital doctors. We examined hospital doctors' knowledge of key elements of end-of-life care legislation. Materials and Methods: We conducted a prospective, observational, cross-sectional study of doctors from a large Australian public tertiary health network using six questions formulated on basic key elements of the legislation. Demographic data collected included years of work experience, clinical unit, and proportion of work hours spent with dying patients. Results: Of the 201 doctors censored, senior doctors (>10 years' experience) were the least knowledgeable group. Only approximately 20% of doctors correctly answered all questions. Thirty-two percent would potentially provide futile treatment if demanded by a competent patient. Fifty percent did not know how to locate an advance directive in the hospital record. There was confusion regarding the role of the substitute decision-maker. Conclusions: Approximately a quarter of hospital doctors practise with a poor understanding of the law over the various domains. The urgent call for education is further highlighted not only for students and junior doctors but also for senior doctors who scored poorly. Educational efforts could begin from addressing the simple key areas of legislation covered in the survey.

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