Making life's last journey with a dying patient is always a sad process and can be especially painful if the patient is in a crowded public hospital ward where privacy is a luxury. Things are changing, at least at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei. The hospital's accident and emergency department has recently turned a treatment room into a special venue for families and friends to spend the last 24 to 48 hours with their loved one. The room, called Osiris after the ancient Greek god of the underworld, is the first such facility of its kind in a local public hospital. Decorated as a private ward, the spacious room accommodates a patient's bed, a sofa, tea table and a big armchair. Family members can stay overnight there with the patient and religious rituals can also be held. Since it went into service in mid-September, six patients have died there, most of them cancer patients admitted to the accident and emergency room after their conditions turned critical at home. Accident and emergency chief Dr Ho Hiu-fai said promotion of end-of-life care had become a trend in the United States, while Hong Kong was still at the starting stage. 'In the past, family members had to squeeze around a patient bed in a general ward with no privacy at all in bidding farewell to the patient,' Ho said. 'Now they have a private area for that very last moment. So far the response has been good.' Many patients who need end-of-life care are in pain or have breathing difficulties. Dr Martin Lau Che-ying said medical staff would do their best to relieve the pain with medicine but would not feed the patients or conduct any other active treatment. 'Some family members ask us to continue to provide nutrition but we explain to them that it would place an extra burden on the patient,' he said. The six patients who used the service had made arrangements with their doctors that they should not receive resuscitation when their conditions turned critical. Ho said only patients with such advance arrangements would be referred to Osiris. An average 50 patients a month die within 48 hours of admission to the accident and emergency room. 'Only a few patients have been referred to the [Osiris] service because the others did not have any advance care planning with their doctors,' Ho said. 'End-of-life care is still a new concept in Hong Kong and we hope more doctors will talk to their terminally ill patients about this.' The team would liaise closely with the palliative care team and the hospice team so their patients could also use the new service. He said Hong Kong should gradually work towards allowing terminally ill patients to die at home, but this involved many legal and medical issues.