End-of-life decision-making: practical and ethical issues for health professionals

Document Type


Publication details

Cartwright, CM 2000, 'End-of-life decision-making: practical and ethical issues for health professionals', Australasian Journal on Ageing, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 57-62.

Published version available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-6612.2000.tb00145.x

Peer Reviewed



Life-extending changes in medical technology and an ageing population pose practical and ethical problems relating to end-of-life decision making. Health professionals need to understand the fears and concerns of their patients, their preferred place to die and to respect patient autonomy. Such wishes may be expressed verbally by a competent patient or through an advance directive (living will) or proxy by an incompetent patient. There is an urgent need for increased and improved training of health professionals in pain management and palliative care, and for the development of practical, ethical policies and guidelines with respect to withdrawing/withholding life-sustaining treatment. In addition, physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, two of the important moral issues of the 90s, will continue to require open community debate as we move into the new millennium. Australia, in company with most other countries, has many challenges ahead in relation to end-of-life decision making.