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‘Bad deaths’ increasing

Given the choice, would you prefer a good death or a bad death? asks Professor Nick Graves from QUT.

It may seem a no-brainer, but on some occasions patients end up receiving medical and surgical treatments at the end of their lives that do not provide benefits.

Indeed, they might prolong pain and suffering and cause distress.

We are seeing an increasing number of “bad deaths” as a result of what could be called “non-beneficial treatments” that prolong suffering.

Advances in medicine mean health care professionals can prolong life, yet some treatments have a low chance of providing tangible benefits to some patients, can result in a “bad death” and represent a multimillion-dollar cost to the public purse.

The Australian-first Reducing Non-Beneficial Treatment at the End-of-Life collaboration between QUT health and law researchers has been awarded a $504,187.80 Partnership Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Three hospital partners are investing a similar amount.

Delaying an individual’s death with “non-beneficial” treatment could both increase suffering and waste money.

Dying in Australia is becoming an increasingly institutionalised and medicalised experience.

Hospitalisation rates for people aged 85-plus increased by 35 per cent for women and 48 per cent for men in the decade to 2011.

More than half of Australian deaths now occur in hospital, with 26 per cent in residential care and 20 per cent in the home.

These “non-beneficial” treatments, which are pervasive in the health system, do not help patients who are dying, and cost the taxpayer a lot of money.

Programs to reduce their frequency should be developed and subject to research.


Professor Nick Graves from QUT’s Faculty of Health and Academic Director of the Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation.


End of life research to tackle increasing number of ‘bad deaths’ (ABC News)


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