End of Life Talks

A recent survey  of nearly 1,700 by the California HealthCare Foundation found that 76% of respondents did not have written advance directives even though 40% said they had talked with a loved one about what medical treatments they would want at the end of life.  Even worse, only 8% of the patients had ever been asked about end-of-life treatment wishes by a physician even though 80% of patients believe it is important to have their end-of-life wishes in writing. Want some more numbers?  Here are the things that mattered most to people at the end of their lives:

  • 67%: Making sure family is not burdened financially by my care
  • 66%: Being comfortable and without pain
  • 61%: Being at peace spiritually
  • 60%: Making sure family is not burdened by tough decisions about my care
  • 60%: Having loved ones around me
  • 58%: Being able to pay for the care I need
  • 57%: Making sure my wishes for medical care are followed
  • 55%: Not feeling alone
  • 44%: Having doctors and nurses who will respect my cultural beliefs and values
  • 36%: Living as long as possible
  • 33%: Being at home
  • 32%: Having a close relationship with my doctor

That is a lot of information.  The advanced directive discussion should not be taken lightly.   The idiots who came up with the “death panel” complaints are just that…idiots.  I, as a doctor, am guilty of rarely having these talks with patients. We could save so much money for our healthcare system if we did a better job educating patients and respecting their wishes. That being said, we need a better system in place to do it and we need more time which means a better way of paying for these talks.  I challenge anyone to handle that list above in fifteen minutes.  Then multiply that by 1000 or 2000 just for your aging population panel.   Anyone have some solutions or ideas?

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