Archive for Monday, August 17, 2009

End-of-life choices

Americans should consider the value of making and sharing choices about their end-of-life care.

August 17, 2009


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.


WilburM 8 years, 6 months ago

The LJW produces an eminently sensible editorial on end-of-life planning, and no one comments, especially re "death panels" or anything else inflammatory. The fact is that end-of-life planning makes great sense, and people from across the political spectrum generally agree on that. So all the "death panel" baloney has nothing to do with this serious and important issue, and everything to do with trying to stop health care reform at any cost, in large part by refusing to have any kind of sensible debate over the issues of care and costs.

Linda Upstill 8 years, 6 months ago

Thank you for noting that end-of-life planning really has nothing to do with the health care reform bill, other than doctors being reimbursed for the time they spend counseling patients on their options at the end of life. As the chair of the Coalition to Honor End-of-Life Choices (CHEC), I would like the community to be aware that CHEC has provided forums on this subject for the last eight years. It is to everyone's advantage to talk about what medical interventions you might want at the end of life. Share this information with those close to you. You choose, not the government, and I am certain the government would prefer not choosing. These are often difficult decisions, but talking about them before a crisis, makes the final decision a little easier because the individual has made that choice.

Please continue to have these discussions. We cannot escape dying. It is how you choose to live and the choices you make for end of life care that are important. End-of-life can come at any time. It is not reserved for the old. Gain all the knowledge you can to make informed choices and have these important conversations. Plan to attend a CHEC education event, we will help you understand these choices so you can make informed decisions. Thank you.

Don Whiteley 8 years, 6 months ago

Any conversation about end-of-life choices must include the choice of ending ones life when the torment of pain and suffering becomes too great for any possibility of a meaningful existence and no chance of recovery exists. Only in America does a living being who wants to live, which unquestionably qualifies every unborn child, have that right revoked and trampled by society; and every older being who wants the right to choose how and when they die have that same right equally revoked and trampled by the same society.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 6 months ago

I would hope that if I was a pregnant mother with a terminal illness that I would try my best to hang on until the child was able to survive on its own. I would not want my child to die.

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