Medical Law Matters | March 2023

Video: In conversation with Dr Kathryn Mannix - the art of communicating in challenging moments

In this long-form video interview, Rob Tobin, Head of UK Medical Law, speaks with pioneering palliative care physician and psychotherapist Dr Kathryn Mannix about how to support the best interests, values, wishes and feelings of people nearing the end of life.

I recently had the privilege of talking with the brilliant Dr Kathryn Mannix, palliative care physician and psychotherapist about best interests and the art of communicating in challenging moments. Our conversation was recorded and I am delighted to be able to share it with you here. Please do pass it on to anyone you think might find the topics we touched upon of interest.

Kathryn has devoted her career to caring for people at the end of their lives and educating others on how to approach and conduct what would seemingly be very difficult conversations. She encourages much better and informed advance decision-making for people before they lose the capacity to communicate their wishes, values and feelings for themselves.

Kathryn has presented many very successful TED Talks and written books on this subject, including bestselling With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well, and I strongly recommend all these to you.

In conversation with Dr Kathryn Mannix: the art of communicating in challenging moments

In our conversation we discussed a number of these topics, starting with the very difficult question of how to start conversations with loved ones or, for clinicians, with patients before they reach the stage where they are unable to communicate for themselves. How do you know when it is the right time to start those conversations and how do you open the door to them, enabling people to express their wishes, values and feelings in advance?

We covered the difficulties around the unknowns of future treatment – how can you give an informed view on what treatment you might or might not want in the future when you do not truly know what that would entail? What does it really mean to be on a ventilator; to be intubated and to be totally dependent on others. And, most movingly, Kathryn explained the dying process itself and how it is not usually the violent act we might see on television but that it is generally quite a profoundly peaceful and natural process and an experience many of us (patients, relatives and clinicians) would want to know about in advance rather than fearing the unknown.

I do hope you will take comfort from many of the insights Kathryn brings to the conversation, which I certainly found immensely interesting and thought-provoking.

For more details on advanced care planning, you may wish to also watch our recent webinar on best interests.

You may also like to watch some of Kathryn’s TED Talks and I highly recommend you read Kathryn’s books including With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well and Listen: How to Find Words for Tender Conversations, both of which expand upon the topics we discussed.

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