Sheng-Jean Huang, M.D., Superintendent of Taipei City Hospital, delivered a presentation on hospice and palliative care with a theme of “Begin with the End and from the Heart: Let’s Give Taiwan a Chance” in a general course at Soochow University on April 13th. As the Patient Autonomy Act will come into effect in 2019, Huang wanted to promote the ideal that patients with terminal diseases can take initiative to terminate the treatment by authorizing their doctors to do so. Such autonomy and rights given upon terminal patients will guarantee them with a peaceful departure and a better relationship between patients and their care givers.
The course titled “The Dignity and Value of Life” is jointly organized and offered by SCU and Taipei City Hospital with Wen-Jung Sun, M.D., Director of the Long-Term Care Center in Taipei City Hospital as the host instructor. Through clinical cases, students are able to explore the meaning, dignity and value of life, to think about issues regarding life and death, as well as to develop their humanistic qualities.
Huang said that even if patients with terminal diseases choose routine medical services, make every effort to prolong their lives, and stay in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with all the medical appliances, they are still unable to stay away from death, and would even feel extremely painful in the last stage of their lives. However, once they choose hospice and palliative care, they are able to live in their most familiar environment in the last few months of their lives with their family and relatives so as to live with comfort, die with dignity, and fullfill their wish of a peaceful departure.
The most serious concern or difficulty for the family of terminal patients is how to take care of them after going back home. This is the time for medical teams to walk out of the hospitals and to prevent patients and their family from traveling back and forth between their homes and hospitals. In the past three years, it is estimated that the hospice and palliative care team of Taipei City Hospital has paid more than 35,000 visits to patients’ houses, and has provided medical services to 1,077 patients. Among them, more than 800 passed away peacefully at home. The hospice and palliative care reduce wasted healthcare significantly, saving NT$100 million for the country’s National Health Insurance (NHI) and creating an all-win situation among patients, their family, medical teams, and the NHI. Despite the fact that doctors need to carry 9-kg bags packed with medical appliances when visiting their patients, the medical teams have no complaints or regrets.
A film played by Huang in his presentation touched all the students by showing how to assist terminal patients in completing life reconciliation and healing the rift between them and their family. The width of life is of more pivotal importance than the length of it. Do not avoid talking about death and do not be afraid of death, for a better way of dying means a better way of living. Huang hoped that students would cherish every present moment, love everyone around them, make less complaint, and show more gratitude.
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