It’s unfortunate that the current debate over changes in federal health care policy is casting discussions about end-of-life care in such a negative light.
Various sources are putting forth different interpretations of what the proposed health care plan says about end-of-life care. A number of the interpretations include mandatory provisions that the American people clearly would find unacceptable.
However, the idea of people taking time to consider what kind of care they would like to receive to relieve pain or prolong their lives should be a natural part of life. Being able to share those thoughts with a physician or family members could bring much comfort not only to individuals but to those who may have to make care decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.
Many groups across the nation, including the local Coalition to Honor End-of-Life Choices have been working for a number of years to provide information that will make people more comfortable with having this conversation.
One of the most important things to understand is that there is no right or wrong way to do end-of-life care. It is and should be an individual choice. People can do a living will to specifically spell out the kind of care they would and wouldn’t find acceptable to prolong their lives or they can simply complete a durable power of attorney for health care to designate the person or persons they want to make those decisions if they are incapacitated.
No advance directive takes precedence over people who change their minds while they are still able to make their own care decisions. But, after that time is past, an advance directive can offer valuable guidance about what a person would want his or her family or caregivers to do.
More than many other cultures around the world, American society doesn’t encourage people to talk about death and dying. Talking about end-of-life choices shouldn’t be equated with considering or encouraging ways to end life prematurely. Dying is an inevitable part of life. We all understand that we have choices in life; perhaps we also should pay more attention to the choices we have in death.