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Death and Dying: An Emerging Conversation

Posted on 07/23/2015

Kansas Health Institute News Service –“Longevity is good in general. In the specifics, it becomes a very different picture,” said John Carney, head of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City, Mo., a nonprofit group that among other things is attempting to catalyze productive discussions — at the individual and societal levels — about how to deal with the ethical, emotional and medical issues that complicate the final months, weeks and days or our lives.

By any name, it is a realm most seriously ill Americans enter with anxiety either because of their physical or mental vulnerabilities or because of the mysterious costs.

“There is a growing societal view now that we are doing things to people that they cannot benefit from,” Carney said. “Ask anybody, ‘Do you want to die hooked up to tubes and machines?’ Nobody says they want to. There is this belief that technology will solve all of this for us, but it is humanity and touch and care. That kind of sacred exchange is what makes people whole in the final stage of life.

This is the first story in a three-part series by KHI News Service on the emerging conversation about end-of-life issues and the policy changes needed to give people more control over what happens to them in their final days. Read the full first story on efforts to encourage end-of-life discussions. The second story focuses on work to promote patient comfort through palliative care. The third story focuses on the push to enact state laws allowing terminally ill patients to receive a doctor’s aid in dying.