End of Life Discussions – What Would Your Doctor Do?

I read an article recently posted by NPR entitled “Knowing How Doctors Die Can Change End-of-Life Discussions.” Surprisingly, almost 90 percent of doctors facing a terminal illness would forgo resuscitation and aggressive treatment. Most doctors would rather die at home, peacefully, than die in a hospital. According to this article, a majority of seniors would also rather die a gentle death, yet they often die hooked up to life support. Why is that?

Too few doctors are trained to talk about death and dying with patients. They feel it is better to give hope than to give reality. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if doctors and estate planning attorneys could get together and work on this problem? Doctors complain that health insurance is partly to blame because they only get paid so much to examine a patient. I think that is partially a cop-out because my doctor always spends time talking to me when I go to see her and she never makes me feel rushed. I think the biggest problem is that doctors are not trained to talk about these issues.

Most clients that I meet with agree that they do not want prolonged medical intervention at the end of life if it will have no meaning or prolong their life. However, do they ever think to ask their doctor about – what if I don’t get any treatment? What about not treating – how would that play out? If doctors are not talking to their patients about these issues, then patients need to bring up the conversation. How do you bring up that conversation?

Next time you visit with your doctor, bring them a copy of your Living Will and Health Care Surrogate Designation. Make sure that this is in your doctor’s file. If you have been given a diagnosis of terminal or end stage condition, ask your doctor what about no treatment? What would that look like? Ask your doctor what he or she would do if in your situation. Make your doctor have a conversation with you about the option of no treatment, and if they refuse to do so, perhaps it’s time to find a doctor who will have that conversation.

If you are questioning what is a living will and what is a health care surrogate designation – CLICK HERE FOR A BETTER UNDERSTANDING. It is not an easy conversation to have, but end-of-life choices should include the ability to have no treatment at all and to die on your own terms, at home, surrounded by loved ones.

If you have questions about end of life discussions or obtaining a living will and health care surrogate, please contact the Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A.