End-of-Life Preparation Makes Good Sense

End-of-life care is not the scary prospect portrayed in some political circles. In fact, hospice, pain control and consultations with a palliative care specialist make one's life better!

What a shame that the Democrats' health reform proposal that would have paid doctors to make such consultations fell victim to fear mongering.

It's too bad more people don't attend hospice and palliative care conferences, so their understanding of the issue would be enhanced. The truth is you cannot really comprehend of end-of-life issues until you consider the psychology, spirituality and healing that can be an integral part of the process.

The irony of this debate is that end-of-life care is all about options. It is not about telling people they have to die a certain way. The whole point is that the patient's wishes are carried out, after he or she is aware of the medical options.

Unfortunately, a great many people find the whole topic too taboo and never discuss it, leaving their families in the lurch when some catastrophic illness strikes and mom or dad isn't able to make decisions anymore. To me, that's the scariest position to be in.

So, what tends to happen, according to many physicians who've attended their share of hospice and palliative care conferences, is that all medical treatments are provided (some would say imposed), whether the person has a reasonable hope for recovery or not. Think about that one for a moment. Medical technology can keep people alive for a very long time, even if they have no cognition and little prospect for regaining it.

Look at the case of Martha "Sunny" von Bulow. She lived for almost three decades in an unconcious state, before dying last December. Imagine the medical expense associated with such choices! If more us considered the psychology, spirituality and healing that can be associated with end-of-life care, I am sure hospice would be a more common choice for American families.

Our population is aging to the point where the age 65 and over population will triple by mid century. What's more, there will be fewer workers to support these retirees. The fact is it will be impossible to do everything for everybody, and we might as well address that reality right now, as President Obama so wisely has.

It's my belief that most people who are informed, will choose a pain-free, comfortable death when there is really no hope for recovery, rather than live on indefinitely connected to tubes with no recognition of who they or anybody else is. How could the latter be a moral choice when so many lack basic health needs, especially children who may not even have access to immunizations?

The good news is that anybody who wants to die with dignity, pain-free and according to his or her own wishes, can do so right now! We don't need the permission of those who would rather dig their heads in the sand.

Fill out that Power of Attorney for Healthcare form and speak to your loved ones about your wishes.

The doctors in Life Matters clearly explain why anticipating problems and thinking about how we'd like our loved ones to act on our behalf, makes sense for everybody and will also be less expensive. That's why those attending hospice and palliative care conferences will find it so useful.

Thoughtful physicians whose long experience shapes their insights, offer hope and wisdom for making end-of-life care a natural part of the life process. Death is not the enemy. Rather, it's something to prepare for. Instead, Americans all to often go for broke and provide every last ounce of medical care, whether the patient has a reasonable shot at recovering or not.

Why not employ psychology, spirituality and healing to find a better way?

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