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Start death education in schools: AMA Queensland

Death education should be taught in the classroom to demystify ageing and dying among younger Australians, Queensland doctors have argued.

Australian Medical Association Queensland said young people need to be educated about medical, legal and other issues that surround ageing and dying so they are capable of making informed choices when the time comes.

Dr Richard Kidd, AMA Queensland chair of general practice, said more than any other generation, Australia’s youth will need to understand advance care plans and will also need to know how to make a will.

“Including these sorts of issues or death education in science, legal studies, health and other school subjects will help build this understanding,” Kidd said.

Palliative Care Queensland has backed the move. Chief executive Shyla Mills said death education in schools would also assist young people to become more resilient about loss, ageing, dying and grief.

“They will be far more likely to be involved in the dying process of their relatives, work colleagues and friends than previous generations,” Mills said. “They will need to be very resilient, more compassionate and develop a positive, proactive approach to death.

“While there is pressure on educators to add more material into the school curriculum, death is our only 100 per cent guarantee in life and the effects of our ageing population will be felt most by those at school today.”

Death education would also help prevent young people from adopting their parents’ anxieties and concerns about the issue, Kidd said.

“In many families, death is a bit of a taboo topic that only gets discussed at crisis points,” he said. “Death education at school would help remove any stigma.”

AMA Queensland also held that adolescents aren’t too young to be thinking about making their own advance care plans.

Kidd said: “We’ve seen sad cases of young men getting terrible injuries playing sport and it would have helped their families and doctors enormously if they knew how he wanted to be cared for in his last days.”

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