Hongkongers receptive to end-of-life services outside hospitals, survey finds

Up to 72 per cent want to receive such care in community care organisations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 10:34pm

Hongkongers are broadly receptive to end-of-life services outside hospitals, according to a new survey revealing that up to 72 per cent wanted to receive such care in community care organisations.

But hospitals remain the most popular place for spending one’s last days, with 86 per cent of 1,600 respondents aged 18 or older saying they would choose hospitals. The survey, spanning January to March, was conducted by the Jockey Club’s End-of-life Community Care Project.

New Hong Kong group set up to push for end-of-life care for children

Researchers said the results showed the general public was accepting of end-of-life services at home or from social service agencies, elderly or nursing homes. In light of insufficient manpower at local public hospitals, they said, it has become necessary to extend these services in the community.

Community is one of the most important components in providing end-of-life services
Dr Amy Chow Yin-man, HKU

Dr Amy Chow Yin-man, project director and associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s faculty of social sciences, said a lack of medical staff had prompted public hospitals to set aside end-of-life services to patients with severe illnesses such as cancer. “Community is one of the most important components in providing end-of-life services,” she said.

In the survey, 72 per cent of respondents said they would choose to receive such services from social service agencies and nursing homes, while 55 per cent said they wanted to stay at home for such care.

Chow said many of those surveyed remained concerned about dying at home, citing worries over the impact on property prices or possible bad luck.

About 82 per cent of respondents said they were fine with end-of-life care facilities being located near their home. Close to 60 per cent said they had no problem with their neighbours passing away at home, and 76 per cent said they were accepting of their neighbours’ receiving these services at home.

But only 24 per cent said they would want to spend the last minutes of their life where they lived.

Chow said local laws had also deterred people from seeking alternatives to hospitals at the end of their life. She said the Coroners Ordinance requires a coroner to determine the cause of death when one dies outside a hospital, meaning an autopsy could be necessary. She added many Hongkongers did not like the idea of their bodies being cut open after death.

She said there should be additional public education to change people’s attitudes and that the government should review the ordinance with a view to improving it.