ABC radio Perth says that it’s time to talk about death and your end of life plan

This FOCUS discussion examines what it means to respect the final wishes of the dying.

And how can any of us do that, when most of us are reluctant to even bring it up?

There’s the nitty-gritty stuff like a will, powers of attorney and advanced-health-directives.

And then there are the things around the edges; where do you want to spend your final hours, what will happen to your pets and what do you want played at your funeral?

Taking part in the discussion is nurse practitioner, Shannon Tassell and Dr Margaret Sealey, a palliative care counsellor from Murdoch University.

Duration: 36min 35sec


I think therefore I am? – The D word

It was only about 80 years ago when communities all over the world were much more familiar with Death and Dying. This was before antibiotics, modern surgical techniques and lots of medical technologies had been invented. Now Death and Dying are not so obvious and it is not uncommon for 30+ year olds to have never been to a funeral before in their life.

Even now, Death and Dying are still D words that are avoided by many clinicians as they try to ‘protect’ their patients. Who are they really trying to protect? Themselves?

Other D words could be:







These were some of the D words that came to mind while listening to this podcast:

Dr Kathryn Mannix talks about her best-selling book “With the end in mind,” and reflects on her Palliative Care career

Have a listen and let me know what you think.


Death and digital media seminar Melbourne 26th April 17:00

The Centre for Palliative Care is hosting what will be a thought-provoking session on the intersection of death and digital media. As someone who is periodically startled by Facebook mentions of people who have died, I am looking forward to this.

“The focus of this presentation will be to outline some of the key issues surrounding death in the digital age. This will include a critical overview of how people mourn, commemorate and interact with the dead through digital media.

The presenters will briefly map the historical and shifting landscape of digital death by considering a range of social, commercial and institutional responses to technological innovations. Discussion will centre around multiple digital platforms through a number of case studies drawn from Australia, North America and Europe.

Through these case studies they will offer fresh insight and analysis into emerging practices through which digital technologies are used to mourn, commemorate and interact with the dead.

You won’t want to miss this 21st century overview of death and social media.”

For more information email

Cheers, Sonia


National Advance Care Planning Week dates announced


Advance Care Planning Australia has recently announced that National Advance Care Planning week 2018 will be held from 16-22 of April.

They include links for people who are interested in contributing to the national week, by hosting or attending an event. What would you do? A movie night? Barbeque? Seminar? Drinks with folks from your sports club? Book club meeting?  We’re all encouraged to get creative and use the hashtag #acpweek18 to share the love on social media. Of course you’ll be welcome to share it here with us too. Feel free to leave a comment to let others know what you’re planning (no pun intended).


Call for Abstracts – Palliative Care Nurses Australia (PCNA) Biennial Conference: Fostering Excellence in Palliative Care

PCNAust18 Conference Banner_18

Get your abstracts in now for this year’s PCNA Conference in Brisbane,
Fostering Excellence in Palliative Care.

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What does a successful (US) palliative care program look like?

A little different from that found in Australia or New Zealand. 28097_PEC_Palliative_Care_Poster

Here are some ideas which might have resonance in our region.

I love the idea of automatic triggers to referral, which takes away the emotional content for the referrer of whether to refer or not. But our electronic medical record systems lag a long way behind that seen in the US, which is problematic.

I am not sure what I think about the suggested re-brand to “supportive care”. Less threatening for some patients and referrers, for sure. Does it mean we are joining the ranks of the death deniers, though?
Excellent reminder about the importance of meticulous communication with referrers. However I suggest that an item missing is laser focus on communication with patients. As patients sit at the centre of our care, I often write the letter to the patient in non medical language, and copy in the referrer and general practitioner. The letters may be light on medical detail for some referrers, but the patients often find them useful to remind them of what we talked about, and to show family, friends and other care givers.

I liked the data down the bottom about readmission rates, that would be a powerful lever for our managers to promote palliative care consultation services. Patients seen by palliative care had dramatically lower readmission rates compared with those not seen.

I would love to see an infographic about our palliative care services data, if you have seen one please let me know!28097_PEC_Palliative_Care_Poster


#COSA17: #PalliativeCare reflections on the 44th Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting

Circular Quay

Despite being a Melburnian, I must admit that Sydney really is an irresistibly beautiful city when the sun comes out, especially by the water. The 44th Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) Annual Scientific Meeting was held in the newly renovated International Convention Centre in Sydney between 12-15th November 2017. With the sunlight streaming in through its many windows, reflecting off the waters of Darling Harbour, it really was the perfect place to be at the beginning of summer.

I attended the pre-conference workshop on cancer supportive care, which was organised by Judith Lacey, a palliative medicine specialist at Chris O’Brien LIfehouse. The whole-day workshop featured an interesting mixture of passionate speakers promoting a range of complementary treatments including medicinal cannabis, massage and probiotics; alongside others examining the evidence base for acupuncture, reviewing current clinical trials and prescribing pathways, and comparing different funding models for supportive care. It was a long but worthwhile day that set the mood for the rest of the conference.  Continue reading

New Zealand wins (again)

I have to confess I am a fan of the New Zealand health system from across the ditch. Sensible spending. strong palliative care health service connections… am I wrong Bro?

This article has not succeeded in reversing my bias in favour of New Zealand.

Palliative data nerds will no doubt recall this  fascinating study in Scotland by Professor Clark et al.  Published in Palliative Medicine, and quickly attaining the journal’s highest-ever Altmetrics score (1) , Clark showed that among 10,743 inpatients in 25 Scottish teaching and general hospitals on 31 March 2010,  3,098 (28.8%) patients died during the one-year follow-up period. The findings were replicated in 2013 with similar results.

The study by the fabulous  Professor  Merryn Gott et al showed that on the same date, the corresponding figure in New Zealand (including obstetrics) was about half at 14.5%. Patients at higher risk of dying were the elderly of over 80 years of age, Maori, those with cancer, those from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and those admitted under medical specialties rather than surgical.

New Zealand seems to provide better end of life care outside the hospital setting, with stronger end-of-life care in the aged care setting. This has certainly been a focus for service development in Australia as well.

How would we rate in Australia I wonder?

I would love to hear from international colleagues

Ref (1)


I think therefore I am ? – A special Totara Hospice South Auckland event this Friday.

07/12/17 – Update – Attendees please note that tomorrow morning in Auckland there will be a Railway Workers Strike meaning that road traffic will likely be much heavier than usual. We have asked attendees to arrive at 8.45am for a 9am start, please factor in the strike traffic delay when planning your travel for tomorrow morning. If you arrive early you can visit our on-site Cafe Totara for a fresh Barista-made coffee, with a range of fresh food available as well, all prepared on-site. An email update will be sent to attendees who have already registered.

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Hi everyone,

Can healing occur at the end of life?

To whom does compassion need to extend to at the end of life?

These are the type of questions that will be explored in Totara Hospice South Auckland’s education centre this Friday morning, 08 December 2017 9am to 12pm.

We are privileged to be hosting two international speakers.

Dr Rob Rutledge will be joined by a special guest.

We will be honoured to also have in attendance, Tibetan Buddhist Monk, Za Choeje Rinpoche.


Please join us for a very special interactive workshop in which we will attempt to challenge your thinking and change the stasis quo.

RSVP details are contained in the below pdf.

Morning tea refreshments will be provided.

Please pass on this invitation to anyone in your networks who might be interested in attending.



Invitation Compassion and Healing Seminar.pdf

Research opportunities in palliative care

Read on if you are interested in some research opportunities in palliative care, based at HammondCare in Sydney.

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