In the palliative care section of any hospital, almost all of the patients have a clock.
According to physician of 45 years Dr Terry Hannan, that isn’t the norm for hospital patients - except for those who know that their life is coming to an end.
In palliative care, an astute observer will notice a wealth of foldable clocks or big watches, displayed by the patients on their bedside tables.
“It made me realise what time means to a dying patient,” Dr Hannan said. “Unless you’ve been near to death yourself, it’s hard to conceptualise it.”
Dr Hannan believes we all need to talk about death a lot more. He’s part of a panel debate on that topic as part of the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, where he’ll bring his expertise as a longtime medical practitioner.
In fact, he believes it is within his industry where change is needed the most.
He said over his lifetime as a doctor, he has seen an obsession with technology usurp the process of actually speaking to a patient, and has seen doctors use endless tests with the latest machines as a way to stave off facing the inevitability of death with courage.
“We have young doctors who can not even talk about death or dying with a patient, and their senior physicians often pass the buck to them because they are also unable to face the dying process,” he said. “They’ve come into their career with training on basically everything except how to talk to patients.”
- Who decides? Ending Life or Ending Suffering will take place as part of the Tamar Valley Writer’s Festival on Sunday at 10.45am, $15.