Newham Recorder, 4 September 2013, http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/features/chair_of_east_london_humanists_paul_kaufman_on_giving_people_a_choice_on_how_they_spend_the_end_of_their_lives_1_2367077

Chair of East London Humanists Paul Kaufman on giving people a choice on how they spend the end of their lives

The End of Life Advocacy Project was launched in January by Compassion in Dying in partnership with Age UK (East London).

It is funded by the Big Lottery’s Silver Dreams Fund, which is supported by the Daily Mail.

A survey shows 82 per cent of people in the UK have strong views about how they wish to be treated at the end of their life, but only three per cent have made their wishes known in an “advance decision”.

And 52 per cent wrongly believe they have the automatic right to make decisions for a loved one who is seriously ill.

The aim of the project is to inform and empower individuals to make decisions and exercise legal rights.

This is being achieved through Age UK staff and volunteers informing older people of their rights and helping them complete, if they want, an advance decision or lasting power of attorney.

The project also provides free training to local community groups and organisations.

Humanists welcome this initiative. The way we are treated at the end of our lives is one of the most fundamental of human rights.

It is a subject few of us like talking about and which few prepare for. Consequently decisions are often left to medical and other professionals to make on our behalf.

This includes, for example, the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment and to choose where we spend our last days. Failure to understand and exercise choice sadly makes it all too common for the end-of-life experience to be far worse than it needs to be.

Humanists have additional concerns to those being addressed by the project. One is the question of pastoral care. An increasing number of people have no religious belief.

We are no more likely than, say, a Muslim to welcome the intervention of a Christian chaplain when we are dying. If pastoral care is to receive public funding then this should in fairness be extended to meet the needs of the non-religious as well.

For more information on the advocacy project, to book a one-to-one appointment or to arrange training, ring Compassion in Dying on 0800 999 2434.