End of life talks are difficult but important

End of life talks are difficult but important

I am unsure how it came to be, but over the last number of years I have become rather involved in the topic of end-of-life choices.

For one, I sit on the Steering Committee for the Ventura County Coalition for Compassionate Care (VCCCC), a nonprofit organization advocating for the discussion and documentation of end-of-life wishes.

One of our projects I am most proud of is a 15-minute public service video we produced with Kerri Kasem, the daughter of radio host Casey Kasem. Along with others in the video, she demonstrates the importance of making healthcare decisions in advance, documenting them, and discussing them with physicians and family. You can view the video at www.vcccc.org.

Secondly, I sit on the Clinical Ethics Advisory Committee for a local hospital.

Communication helps ensure end-of-life wishes are followed

Communication helps ensure end-of-life wishes are followed

If we lived and died in a perfect world, all our end-of-life wishes would be followed.

If we wanted extraordinary measures, where our doctors do everything possible to prevent our death, that would be done. If we wanted to simply remain as comfortable as possible until the end comes, that would be done.

But we are not in a perfect world, and too many people are taking their last breath without their wishes being followed.

For many of us, when we are creating a will or a trust, our attorney may ask us to do some advance care planning, like completing an advance directive and selecting a healthcare proxy.

Or we may have entered a hospital or a skilled nursing facility and are asked to complete these documents.

Chances are 

Conversation is Often the Best Medicine

Senior couple meeting with agentImagine you’ve lived a rich, rewarding life. What would be most important to you in your dying days? Before reading further, think of at least one thing. If you answered avoiding suffering, being with family, having the touch of others, being mentally aware or not becoming a burden to others, you are of similar mind to those surveyed who had a terminal illness. The American healthcare system is focused on avoiding death. Twenty-five percent of all Medicare spending goes toward just 5 percent of patients in their final year of life. And in many cases end-of-life treatment occurs just because we avoid thinking and talking about our wishes. The benefits of having this discussion with loved ones and your physician are multifold. In a Coping with Cancer study, people who had a discussion with their doctor about their end-of-life preferences were more likely to die at peace and in control of their situation and spare their family anguish. And after their death, their family members...