Art imitates life support

Voiceless sculpture gets people talking about end of life care


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VITAL IMPORTANCE: Claire Adams with an eerily realistic sculpture of herself by artist Dale Bamford which was created to encourage discussions about end of life care.

VITAL IMPORTANCE: Claire Adams with an eerily realistic sculpture of herself by artist Dale Bamford which was created to encourage discussions about end of life care.

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Dr Charlie Corke knows how hard it is to make a call on life support without guidance.

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SENIOR intensive care specialist Charlie Corke is passionate about promoting discussions about end of life care, so he commissioned a startlingly realistic artwork to encourage people to confront the issue.

Dr Corke was the brains behind an unusual and topical art installation displayed at Melbourne’s Southbank spillway on October 19.

The Voiceless installation featured a realistic sculpture of a 91-year-old woman on life support –  complete with a tracheostomy, ventilator, feeding and hydration tubes, and a central vein catheter.

The Barwon Health specialist said the artwork, created by sculptor Dale Bamford, was all about trying to encourage discussion of an often neglected, but important, topic.

“I’ve seen so many patients who are extremely ill towards the end of their lives and trying to make a decision is extremely hard when they haven’t set any guidelines for their doctors or families,” he said.

Mr Bamford said the installation was not about pushing a particular viewpoint about life support during end of life care, but was about promoting discussion, so if confronted with the scenario, a person’s preferences were known.

“It was all about trying to get people engaged in advanced care planning and thinking about where that line in the sand is.  

“The artwork is so realistic, it just grabs people. It really did what we wanted it to do.”

Model for the artwork was 91-year-old Geelong resident Claire Adams, who feels it is important for people of all ages to have the discussion with loved ones.

“It’s amazing how people don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“I’m always talking about what I want for the end and what my end of life wish is.”

If she was in intensive care confronting an end of life scenario, Claire said she would want to “fade away quite quickly and for things not to be prolonged”.

She said lying in an intensive care bed for several days while the sculpture was completed was very challenging, but she was glad she had the opportunity to take part.

Claire was also on hand on the day of the installation to discuss the issue with passers by.

“A lot of people were stopping and looking. It was very interesting; a few people didn’t even know it wasn’t a real person.”.

For more information on end of life care and how to make an empowered choice, click here.

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