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Feature Article

Management of a patient with terminal illness: the final stages of life

Paul Glare, Katherine Clark

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Abstract

At some point, all doctors will need to provide care for a dying patient. It is, therefore, necessary for doctors to possess some understanding of how to manage distressing symptoms that may accompany the terminal phase.

Key Points

  • An understanding of the expected death trajectory allows advanced planning for end of life care.
  • Patients with a terminal illness may develop new and sometimes distressing symptoms during the final stages of life. These symptoms include breathlessness, noisy respirations, agitation and pain.
  • All symptoms should be addressed, but the investigations need to be tailored to the patient’s life expectancy.
  • GPs are pivotal to the provision of end of life care of patients in the home and aged care facilities.
  • Good end of life care also requires death preparation and family support, including bereavement support.

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