Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's Talk About Dying

Dr. Peter Saul presented this topic at a TED Conference (an insightful thirteen minute video).  Link:

This is not a pleasant subject, but a necessary one … especially for those of us ‘baby-boomers’.  I find it is a topic that my brothers and sisters (all older than me but one) talk about in a roundabout way, but never really get serious about it.

Dr. Saul said that about 1 in 8 people believe they are immortal. Of course, no one is and everyone that is an adult today will die within this century.

He comments that there is “no such thing as saving lives … doctors can only prolong life.”  People always think there is time to talk about planning for a person's death. Only about 1 in a 100 has a plan. Only about 1 in 500 has a plan about their actual care and treatment should they become terminally ill.

intensive-careDr. Saul believes it us important ‘how we die’ because how we die lives on in the minds of those that survive us. The stress that is caused when a person dies in intensive care is about seven times greater for the family than when a person dies anywhere else. Unfortunately, about 1 in 5 of us in the U.S. will die in an intensive care unit.

The four ways we will die

  • Sudden death (becoming very rare)
  • Terminal illness (becoming more rare and mostly only to younger people)
  • Organ failure (growing rapidly) - hearts, lungs, kidneys, etc.
  • Dwindling capacity with increasing frailty (about 6 out of 10 will die because of this) An inevitable part of the aging process.

Respecting Patient Choices

Educating the patients and their family about developing their death wishes.
Why can't we have these kinds of conversations with our loved ones?

Dr. Saul’s proposition

Here is what we can do now to insure we are more prepared. Ask two questions:
  • In the event you can no longer speak for yourself, who would you like to speak for you?
  • Have you spoken to that person about what is important to you?
living-willConsider adopting the slogan, "My death - my way". This was not a pitch for euthanasia; this is a way to regain some control of how you will die.  Dr. Saunders who founded the hospice movement had the following quote:  "You matter because you are you, and you matter to the last moment of your life."

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