Difficult Discussions – End of Life

Ending Life on Your Terms

     How long do you want to live?

                 What are you doing to take care of your health?

                                Do you want others to determine how you die?

These are unusual discussion points for anyone in good health. But, the reality is that the end of life decision-making process can be a very disruptive time, especially for our families. Besides, we’re going to live forever, right?

This Saturday, April 16th, is National Healthcare Decisions Day, (www.NationalHealthcareDecisionsDay.org) and its purpose is to inspire, educate and empower the public and healthcare providers about the importance of advance care planning. This is a sobering topic for me, and has significant impact on our families. Certainly I’ve heard about healthcare directives, but what is the real value? And, how does it impact those we love?

When you and I become incapacitated, unable to communicate to others, or make our own decisions, we’re no longer in charge of how we want to be treated. We have no idea how our life will end. Maybe we’ll be involved in an accident next week and can no longer communicate; or, maybe it’s not for another 40 years. Either way, I still want to be in charge of how I’m taken care of and how I want to live, or end, my life. An advanced healthcare directive can help us achieve an end that we desire.


A great story, The Best Possible Day, published in The New York Times and written by Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard can be found at this link to put it all in perspective. In this story, Dr. Gawande reflects on a former patient he helped transition from very difficult and painful, to one that allowed the patient to minimize her pain and the embarrassment of her condition while communicating the love of her students. It really makes you consider options and value what is important.

It’s not difficult to establish an advanced healthcare directive. Each state has different requirements and varying regulations. At this link you can call up a template for the state you live in; just follow the instructions to complete your own healthcare directive.  (If you would like a referral to an attorney that specializes in this area, please let me know.)

By the way, this document is in addition to your will; it has nothing to do with your finances. This is for anyone over 18, young and old, that establishes your wishes if you are no longer able to communicate or make your own healthcare decisions.

Start the conversation.

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