Poll: Does your family or physician know your end-of-life wishes?

Posted on 10/14/2015

Palm Beach Post – Soon, Medicare will start paying doctors for the time it takes them to discuss and document their patients’ end-of-life wishes. No death panel. Just a conversation about how far medical providers should go when the end is near.

That’s good news for anyone who prefers the idea of dying at home to ending life in a hospital intensive care unit.

But doctors aren’t the only ones who need to know people’s final wishes.

At a roundtable discussion during the Palm Beach County Medical Society’s recent Future of Medicine Summit, physicians, nurses and health educators described what happens when people don’t have this conversation with all family members.

All it takes is one detached sibling to fly in at the last moment and demand extreme measures for a patient’s do-not-resuscitate order to be ignored, they said. A hospice physician described what happened when a sibling called 911 for his patient with a DNR order.

“I told them, ‘Cancel the 911,’ but it was too late. The paramedics came in, they broke the guy’s ribs, they put him on an IV, put him on a thumper, took him in the ambulance to a hospital and he was pronounced dead there.”

Former Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman, after the death of her mother, helped launch a non-profit called The Conversation Project, in conjunction with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The group offers a “Conversation Starter Kit” to help families begin to articulate their idea of a “good death.” You can obtain your own copy here.

In its surveys, the group has found that while 90 percent of people believe it’s important to speak with loved ones about end-of-life decisions, only 27 percent have actually done so.

Read the full article from the Palm Beach Post.