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LGBT patients often ‘face discrimination’ at end of life

LGBT patients palliative care

Healthcare professionals must do more to cater for the specific needs of gay, lesbian and transgender patients as they near the end of life, research has warned.

These fears are “not unwarranted”, the authors said, as they outlined cases of discrimination including one instance where a doctor would not treat a lesbian without a chaperone.

They also outlined other issues such as dying people having to “come out” to each new healthcare worker they met.

The report Hiding Who I Am: Exposing the reality of end of life care for LGBT people, by charity Marie Curie, suggests issues for LGBT people in palliative care may be multifaceted as they are less likely to have children and more likely to be estranged from family networks.

Writing the foreword for the report, broadcaster Sandi Toksvig said: “Discrimination has no place in the NHS or social care services, but it is especially unwelcome when someone is at the end of life. This is a time when people should be able to be who they are, with the people that mean the most to them in their life.

“Prejudice and discrimination at the end of life have a devastating impact on LGBT people. At its very worst, it means someone will spend their last days feeling isolated, alone, angry and unwelcome. For those who lose a loved one, not being able to say goodbye in a respectful and peaceful environment can make grief and bereavement that much harder to bear.”

A poll of over 200 LGBT people also found that 75 per cent did not trust health and social care services to provide the right end-of-life care they needed.

And a further one in four reported experiencing bigotry from social and healthcare professionals at some point in their lives.

Commenting on the report, Amanda Cheesley, professional lead for long-term conditions and end-of-life care at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Despite progress made in improving care and tackling prejudice, it’s tragic that people are dying alone without the person most dear to them and unheard by the very people who should be providing them with support at the end of their lives.

“It is right that these problems are being exposed, and this report should be a watershed. People from the LGBT community should not be having to cope with the distress of dying or bereavement whilst worrying about their care.

“Older LGBT people are even more vulnerable and there are very real concerns that they are already facing variation in care because of their age. If this is compounded by their sexual orientation then this makes it even harder for them and their loved ones.

“Health staff should be asking all dying people who they want involved in their end-of-life and recognising that next of kin are not always blood relatives.

“All of those involved in delivering care at the end of life must now work together to ensure that the distressing situations described in this report are firmly in the past.”

It is estimated that more than 40,000 LGBT people die each year in the UK. However, it is suggested that a significant number miss out on the care and support they need, despite experiencing higher rates of life-threatening diseases than the national average.

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