MP's, doctors - the solution is beautiful, simple and will make you feel great.
The Ardern and Hipkins Labour Government promised to tackle poverty. We handed them a significant part of the solution on a plate. We're sorry those MPs refused even to meet. They could have taken real satisfaction from saving many, many, families from poverty.
And to the medical profession, it's never too late to ask yourself what it would take to honour the Health and Disability code's list of patient rights in the after-death setting. Yes, that's right, it takes just two minutes to do the pre-disposal paperwork for families as necessary, and then you just reassure them that they have choices, and that with a word of your advice and a information pamphlet, they will have the information they need to stay out of debt if they choose to.
That's the level of care you give to living patients. That's the level of care the Health and Disability Code requires your profession give to the family of the deceased.
And if this isn't quite enough to convince you, think about it this way. The health system is over-run. Do you really want to add funeral debt to people's stress loads?
Looking at current standard practice is, we know, horrifying. Abandoning people to the predations of the funeral industry has gone on far too long. We realise you, your profession hadn't really thought about it. But now you know. Commit your medical centre, or hospital, to putting the Health and Disability Code into practice in the after-death setting. And then get your professional associations onboard too.
Thank you for your help. We promise, the small amount of extra time and care will pay off.
Fixing New Zealand's dysfunctional death-paperwork system would be astonishingly simple. All that needs to happen is for the Government to send a directive to the medical community requiring them to complete pre-disposal paperwork for the family of the deceased. We've trialed this and it takes the doctor or nurse just two minutes. It really is that simple and that quick.
The family should also be given basic advice on the funeral process; how to stay out of debt and their options for organising the burial or cremation. This is nothing more than basic duty-of-care.
This extension of duty-of-care should happen as of right. Ordinary people should not be forced by official requirements to depend on the private business sector for something as basic and universal as dying.
Accordingly, the Code of Patients' Rights should be extended to explicitly cover after-death care. At the moment the Health and Disability Commission, like the Human Right's Commission are dodging the issue. The family of the deceased need to receive the same standard of care as other patients. The current practice of abandoning people to the predations of the funeral industry needs to be viewed for what it is: a serious lapse of responsibility on the part of government and the medical profession.
The sticking point in solving the problem right now is the Ministry of Health (MoH) which, despite being alerted to serious dysfunction in the system multiple times, turns a blind eye, both in their operational and legislative review capacities.
Clearly, the Government needs to step in and get the MoH to send a directive to the medical community but now. Doctors are really busy and most haven't thought about it, but, to repeat, current practice is malpractice and therefore requires an immediate response. Besides, trialing new systems before legislation gets passed makes good sense.
For the full list of debt-busting reforms see Ten steps to protecting our communities from funeral debt