Exiting this world in peace and comfort is a dream we all share. Most Americans say they want to die at home yet statistics show many people will spend their finals days in the hospital receiving aggressive treatments that do not help them.
Why are so many people not getting what they want?
The Wall Street Journal recently discussed the matter with a host of End-of-Life experts. The experts’ consensus is our healthcare system is often not aligned with the patient’s wishes. Why?
Families of sick patients may think the next procedure will heal their loved one but that is often not the case. Studies show people who undergo aggressive treatments do not live longer. In fact, the story highlights “when cancer patients choose hospice care over intensive care, they live longer and die more peacefully.”
How can we empower people with terminal illnesses to make the most out of their final days? Who can lead the conversation, “when it is no longer a medical problem but a societal and philosophical one?”
The first step is to have an Advance Healthcare Directive in place.
The next step is to have realistic conversations with your physician. Doctor’s are trained to use ambiguous language like “the prognosis is poor.” Cut through the decorum and find out the average outcome of an aggressive treatment before submitting to it.
With the facts, you can weigh the downsides like potential side effects that will cause new complications that must be treated.
The National Cancer Institute has proven when doctors and patients talk openly and realistically about End-of-Life choices, health-care costs will fall while quality of death improves. The earlier conversations happen, the better the outcome.