What Does a Good Death Mean to You and Your Family? Have You Had the Conversation?

Posted on 08/13/2012

The Doctor Weighs In

Patricia Salber, MD MBA

When my father was healthy, he used to jokingly say that he would throw himself off the Golden Gate Bridge when he got old and too sick to care for himself.  But, years later, when he was dying of metastatic melanoma, he didn’t talk about how or where he wanted to die with me or my brother.  And, even though I was in Medical School at the time and should have known better, I didn’t bring it up either.  Luckily, his wife, my wonderful step-mother Toni, took charge.  With the help of one of her other step-daughters, a nurse, she provided my Dad with comfortable, round the clock care.  He died at home surrounded by people he loved and who loved him.  For my family, despite the ravages of an unforgiving illness, this was a “good death.”

A new project, spearheaded by Ellen Goodman and colleagues in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) aims to change that.  Called The Conversation Project, its goal is “to make it easier to initiate conversations about dying, and to encourage people to talk now and as often as necessary so that their wishes are known when the time comes.”

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