House: End of life care in spotlight

  • Minister of Health Kim Wilson

Discussions on the “difficult issue” of end-of-life care are needed now more than ever, the health minister said this morning.

Kim Wilson said a proper debate was “vital to ensure our last days are comfortable, meaningful and affordable”.

Ms Wilson added: “We have a lot of fear and discomfort with talking about death.

“However not talking about it doesn’t prevent it.”

Ms Wilson, speaking in the House of Assembly, said conversations must “question and address” gaps in both quality and quantity in the island’s healthcare system.

She said the average Bermudian life expectancy of 81 was a “great achievement” — but brought problems in its wake.

The minister explained: “Greater longevity means, for example, that we now require care for longer periods of time, and that we are more likely to have decreased quality of life during our final years.

“Accordingly, the default response in healthcare is for aggressive intervention unless the patient, or their responsible person, states otherwise.

“The question we must ask ourselves is this — are such interventions wanted by the individual in question?”

Ms Wilson said her ministry wanted to support discussions and help educate members of the public on their options.

She added: “The recent inclusion of the palliative home care benefit under the standard health benefit is one step in this direction, as well as the personal home care benefit offered through HIP and FutureCare.”

She said the benefits would allow those nearing the end of their lives to stay in their homes longer, and to be cared for in a “more humane manner”.

Ms Wilson praised Friends of Hospice for multiple events held last month regarding palliative care, and two events held this year specifically addressing end-of-life conversations.

The minister said: “This work from the community is vital to begin to shift the understanding, expectations and culture around death and end-of-life care.”

She encouraged everyone to visit at the Ageing and Disability Services’ resource page on the Government’s website for information on how to start end-of-life discussions.

Mr Wilson added: “We also encourage people to get involved in these discussions with their loved ones and their doctors.

“It is never too soon to start.”

• To read Ms Wilson’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”