The Conversation No One Wants To Have

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Growing old, aging and dying have never been easy to accept concepts. Especially, with Google’s new business venture “Calico” which is meant to expand our lifespans by 20 years.

But the tech mogul isn’t the first to try and debunk old age. Doctors and scientists have always been on the search for the Holy Grail. Although the conversation of prolonging our life is constant, the conversation around end-of-life management has sustained slow development. The lack of conversation between doctor and patient about end-of-life decisions could be because hospitals are over-crowded and high turnover is encouraged.

President Obama recently proposed to reimburse doctors who discuss end-of-life care with patients via Medicare. It was recently cancelled due to the fact that some believed; it would lead to the creation of “death panels,” despite praises from many doctors and providers.

The encouragement of conversation from doctor to patient should be motivated to start at an earlier stage of the relationship. Dr. Smith, a palliative care specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, urges a different type of practice to promote conversation. Dr. Smith works with two other authors, Dr. Brie Williams and Dr. Bernard Lo — a geriatrician and an internist – to promote the conversation. Their proposal is meant for physicians to discuss overall prognosis with elderly patients who do not have a dominant terminal illness so that they may make informed end-of-life decisions. They claim this change will “radically alter” the way healthcare practitioners communicate with their patients.

Despite the withdrawal of the Obama’s political proposal, Dr. Smith and colleagues plan to develop a website that will offer an individual prognoses based on 19 to 20 different geriatric prognostic indexes. According to Dr. Eric Widera, one of the creators, the website is a very nuanced way to look at health care.

A number of geriatric calculators do provide reasonably good projections, based on several health factors, age, cognitive status and functional abilities and sometimes laboratory test results. – Dr. Eric Widera

We have to begin and continue the conversation so that we are properly informed about our choices for end-of-life care; both for our loved ones and to take control of our own lives. Clearly, efforts to change the perception of end-of-life care are underway, and hopefully, this will change healthcare for the positive.

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