The Experiences of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People around End-of-Life Care

by Colleen Cartwright; Katherine Beck; Tania Leinart

Jan 1, 2010
All States and Territories in Australia have implemented legislation relating to end-of-life decision-making and substitute judgment. However, reports to relevant legal and community services indicate that many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in NSW -- estimated to be about four to five percent of the population -- are being denied their legal rights in the end-of-life care of their partners and other important people in their lives.
  • Some LGBT patients will not volunteer their sexual orientation or identity in health consultations due to; feeling uncomfortable discussing it, concern about a bad reaction or treatment, not wanting it on their medical record, or worry that someone else (health insurer, employer, family) may find out.
  • LGBT individuals may not access health screening services which leaves them at freater risk for developing some cancers, ie. lesbian women experience higher rates of breast cnacer and gay men experience higher rates of HPV-related cancers including penile and anal cancers.
  • Lesbian and bisexual women have reported 2-3x the rates of depression, anxiety disorders and suicidal ideation than heterosexual women.
  • Same-sex attracted youth, especially males, experience high rates of distress, despair, and suicide.
  • Among LGBT populations surveyed, isolation from one another and the general community cited as the greatest health concern, followed by depression (40%).
  • 36% of LGBT populations said that homophobia (defined here as physical or verbal harassment) negatively impacted their lives.
  • Reports show that homophobia and heterosexism are generally more prevalent within elder care systems than within the wider healthcare system.
  • GLBT people in relationships not recognized under the law may need to give power of attorney to their partners to ensure they are not exluded from participating in important decision-making about the patient's care.
  • It is important that same-sex partners are offered the same support heterosexual partners would receive.
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