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Aust Fam Physician. 2004 Jan-Feb;33(1-2):85-6.

Talking to patients about death and dying.

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Evaluation Unit, Department of General Practice, University of Adelaide, South Australia.



Talking about death and dying, either with patients terminally ill or well, presents challenges for the general practitioner. There are few Australian educational resources and little Australian research into this area.


We undertook two focus groups, an interview process, and a final consultation with palliative care experts and GPs.


General practitioners felt they needed support and education in talking about death and dying. This is separate from discussions about 'Advanced Health Care Directives'. General practitioners were open to learning new ways to help patients and families approach dying, but require support and education around initiating discussions, asking the right questions and accessing services. Participating GPs emphasised the importance of utilising palliative care supports and resources to provide ongoing spiritual and physical care. Many were particularly concerned with access to support for dying patients for both indigenous patients and those from other cultures. Advance Health Care Directives were regarded by participating GPs to be tools to facilitate a discussion around death and dying, rather than their primary purpose.


We developed a booklet to provide practical, useful guidelines for GPs in their daily practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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