Involving family and carers in voluntary assisted dying
Your family and carers can help you think about voluntary assisted dying or help you through the process, if you want them to.
You do not have to discuss voluntary assisted dying with your family or carers if you do not want to. However, you are encouraged to talk to the people who are important to you. This could be your ‘family of choice’, those people who are not blood relatives but that play an important part in your life.
The process can be challenging when you are very sick. You may find it easier if you have support from people you trust. Your family and carers may also welcome the opportunity to help you and understand your decision.
Your family and carers can support you through the voluntary assisted dying process by:
- helping you understand and consider your end-of-life options
- being a part of your conversations about voluntary assisted dying
- going to your appointments with you
- asking for more information about voluntary assisted dying
- giving you personal care
- helping you plan for a voluntary assisted death
- providing comfort
- providing spiritual care
- being with you if you decide to administer the voluntary assisted dying substance.
Talking to your family and carers about death and dying
We all have different relationships with death, shaped by our personal experiences, religious or spiritual beliefs, culture, family history and current life circumstances.
Talking about your preferences for the end-of-life can be difficult and emotional. Many people do not like to talk about death and dying. Yet, having conversations about your death and how you want it to happen, may help those closest to you understand your wishes and prepare them for your death. It can also make it more likely that you receive the healthcare you would prefer at the end of your life.
There is no right or wrong way to talk about death and dying. Your doctor can support you to have this conversation with those close to you.
Having open conversations about your end-of-life preferences allows you to consider how you:
- would prefer to live your final days
- want your life to be celebrated and remembered.
Keep in mind that talking about death and dying isn’t about having all the answers, in fact, it may open up more questions for you.
If a family member or carer does not support your decision, it may help to talk to them about:
- your values and preferences
- how you want to live your final days
- what matters to you most
- why you are making this decision
- what does quality of life mean to you
- what benefits and risks matter most to you
- what role you want them to play.
Even if your family or friends do not agree with your decision, they may still be able to give you the support you need. If needed, you could consider telling them that while they do not have to agree with your decision you would ask them to respect your wishes.
You can also talk to your doctor about additional support if the people important to you do not support your decision.
Support available for your family and carers
When someone is dying or has died it can be a very stressful time. Grief is experienced differently by different people. There is no right way to feel when losing a someone. Grief can be complex, and it can also start before a person dies.
Your coordinating doctor will support you and your family and carers throughout the voluntary assisted dying process. Support from your coordinating doctor to your family and carers will normally finish when you die.
If grief or your involvement in voluntary assisted dying is affecting someone’s physical or mental wellbeing, they can see their doctor or another healthcare worker (for example, a psychologist). They may not be able to do this on your own. Asking for help is okay. Different people will need and want different levels of support.
There are a range of resources available to help your family and carers:
- When someone dies: A practical guide for family and friends (PDF, 1.1MB)—this booklet has information and practical ideas about things to do before and after an adult family member or friend dies in Queensland.
- During sad news and sorry business: Information for family (PDF, 814KB)—this booklet has information and practical ideas for First Nations peoples about things to do before and after an adult passes away in Queensland.
- Carer Help—provides support and resources for carers throughout the caring process, including after death.
- CareSearch—a palliative care knowledge network that has a variety of resources aimed at family, friends and carers.
- The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement—helps family, friends, and carers cope with the death of a person and refers them to resources including information sheets on grief, statewide counselling and support services and bereavement support groups.