End-of-life care is a subject which is of huge interest to me at both a personal level and as a professional sociologist and I have been keenly aware for many years of the need for well-researched Irish-oriented books on this topic.
End-of-Life Care: Ethics and Law by Joan McCarthy, Mary Donnelly, Dolores Dooley, David Smith and Louise Campbell, which was published in November 2011 by Cork University Press, is of immense value in moving towards filling this gap.
The book offers an Ethical Framework for end-of-life decision making in healthcare settings and crucially it aims to foster and support ethically and legally sound clinical practice in end-of-life treatment and care in Ireland.
The Framework, which is the outcome of a unique collaboration between the Irish Hospice Foundation, University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, consists of the following 8 Modules of Learning:
What is particularly appealing about this publication is the fact that, although it deals with complex issues and draws on a vast amount of research from different disciplines and countries, it is written in very accessible language which means that it is not just a book for healthcare and legal professionals but also for patients, families and the general public.
This educational aim of this book is not to tell people what to do but to offer tools for thinking about difficult ethical and legal issues that arise in relation to death and dying. Among the tools that I find particularly useful is having the current laws in Ireland that relate to a whole spectrum of end-of-life issues set out in a coherent way.
The use of case studies throughout the book is a very effective method of enabling the reader to reflect on ethical and legal complexities and to highlight the range of different perspectives from which the same situation can be viewed. End -of-Life Care: Ethics and Law is a publication which fully recognises the mulitcultural and socially diverse world that health professionals, healthcare staff, patients and families belong to.
The dominant message which stands out for me from this excellent book is the importance of sensitive and informed communication, at very many levels, about end-of-life issues. The material that lies within the covers of End-of-Life Care: Ethics and Law provides us all with a wonderful resource to develop this communication and I concur fully with this extract from Murray and Jennings (2005) which is cited on page 33:
The next decades should be, we believe, a time of education and soul-searching discussions in communities and at kitchen tables, as well as in health care settings. […] We must talk about what we dare not name, and look at what we dare not see. We shall never get end-of -care ‘right’ because death is not a puzzle to be solved. Death is an inevitable aspect of the human condition. But let us not forget: while death is inevitable, dying badly is not.