GPs fail to take lead on lasting powers of attorney

by Sarah Ashcroft

Discussing death is not just taboo for the general public, but it is also being ignored by GPs, a new survey suggests.

Family doctors are failing to talk to their patients about end of life issues, such as making a lasting power of attorney or where they want to die, according to the poll released to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs until May 20th.

More than a third (35 per cent) of GPs have not started a discussion with a patient about their end of life wishes, the poll from the Dying Matters Coalition reveals.

Add to this the fact that only 33 per cent of GPs have asked a family member about their end of life wishes and the survey suggests doctors are "not leading by example", according its authors.

Just over half (56 per cent) of GPs have written a will, while only seven per cent have written down their end of life care wishes or preferences.

Across the wider population, making a will is even less common. Just 37 per cent of people have written a will.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK charity director general, notes just how important it is for family doctors to take a lead on these matters.

"GPs play a key role in every stage of a person's life, particularly at the most difficult stages," she says. "This survey shows that more needs to be done to support people at the end of life."

Professor Mayur Lakhani, chair of the Dying Matters Coalition, admits that talking about death is "not easy and most people skirt around the issue and avoid the topic". But he thinks the only option is for GPs and the general public to take a more open approach.

"By raising the issue of end of life care earlier with people who have advancing disease, doctors can also play a key role in ensuring people get the type of end of life care and support they need and want," Dr Lakhani explains.

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Published on: May 17, 2012

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