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Ministry plans to add end-of-life treatment plans to digital Health Portal

Doctors monitoring coronavirus patients at the North Estonia Medical Center in Talllinn. Pictures is illustrative.
Doctors monitoring coronavirus patients at the North Estonia Medical Center in Talllinn. Pictures is illustrative. Source: North Estonia Medical Center.

Estonian residents will be able to add their choices about end-of-life care, such as orders for resuscitation, to their data in the Health Portal (Terviseportaal) in the future, under new plans by the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Modern medicine can now keep people alive even in hopeless situations. In recent years, doctors have called for patients to be given dignified treatment at the end of their lives, Tuesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Katrin Elmet, a senior doctor at the Tartu University Clinic and a lecturer in ethics, has been one of the healthcare professionals leading the discussion. She said most doctors prioritize keeping patients alive, but this may not be the right course of action for many.

"Real life is such that for many people, living in a low-quality or low-quality of life is unacceptable. This declaration of intent is actually designed for people for whom quality of life is more important than length of life. So, the life they have must be of a quality that is acceptable to them," Elmet told AK.

Katrin Elmet. Source: ERR

She said many people want a say in which actions medics can take when trying to save their lives.

The doctor emphasized that declarations of intent must be carefully thought through and drawn up in cooperation with the doctor. 

Healthcare professionals have put together a proposal to add end-of-life treatment information to the Health Portal. It will only be used when a patient is no longer able to make their wishes known. The ministry plans to take the necessary steps this year to move forward with the idea.

Minister of Health Riina Sikkut (SDE) said it is currently only possible to make this kind of document at a notary but it will not be available to doctors.

Riina Sikkut

"At the moment, it is often not possible to give people the end-of-life treatment they want, because there is no legally binding way to put it in writing so that it is equally meaningful for the medical staff, for the loved ones, for everyone," Sikkut said.

The minister said legislative changes will be needed as well as an IT solution to make it possible. The measure is supported by the government and was included in the coalition agreement, Sikkut said.

Dr Elmet said: "Society should have long since matured to ensure that patients receive the treatment they want. Either I want to be kept alive if I do not have the capacity to decide or I do not want to – I should have the right to determine that."

She said society is not yet ready to have discussions about euthanasia.

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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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