The introduction of Voluntary Assistant Dying in Victoria and WA in 2019 is a giant leap in empowering the dying by giving them agency over their end of life care. But it's an incredibly complex and emotional process that is highly medicalised and impersonal. "We live in a death-phobic society, and I think that is nowhere more ingrained than within the healthcare system. Doctors are cultivated to "help" people by staving off death and see death as a failure. I think it's vital to change that perspective." Dr. Cameron McLaren, Oncologist, Direction Health.
"Wanting to be saved is easy. ‘To do whatever is required to save’ is what everyone wants to do for you, needs to do and is expected to do. It’s what our medical system is designed to do. It’s the default. It’s what you get. When we want to set limits, it’s more difficult. The system is so intent and so comfortable ‘to do’ that it requires great confidence to convince everyone that it’s OK not to. Because doctors are so influential, and serious disease and death are so scary, wishes have to be very clear and very convincing to have any chance of having an effect. The key is to convey confidence." Dr Charlie Corke, ICU Specialist, Author of Letting Go
How can we give people 'confidence' to die the way they want?
How can the healthcare system support people who are dying in more holistic and honest ways?
How can society better support those who are dying and their loved ones?
What products and experiences can create new conversations and meaning around death?
I have been conducting interviews and ethnographic research with death doulas, palliative care specialists and those who are dying. I am collating these personal stories into video and audio outputs (see examples below).
This project is a work in progress. I will continue to work with health organisations to bring empathetic resources on these complex issues to help inform the larger questions around improving the process the dying and their loved ones go through.