Having the Conversation about End-of-Life Care

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It’s a universal human desire – we want to live as long as we have good quality of life. When our time draws near, we want to be consulted so we can die as we wish and not be a burden to our families.

A recent Stanford study on end-of-life care revealed that people want to talk about end-of-life (EOL) decisions, but feel their doctors are too busy to start the conversation, reluctant to listen to their questions, and often give vague responses, making it difficult for patients to make informed decisions.

According to “Dying in America,” a landmark report by the Institute of Medicine, the American health care system isn’t doing a great job managing end-of-life care. The report found that too many people end up having aggressive treatment that is ineffective and expensive and doesn’t contribute to the patients’ quality of life.

Patients want to talk about end-of-life care, but are waiting for their doctors to start the conversation.

A new federal policy may make those conversations easier and more routine. Starting in January, Medicare will reimburse doctors for discussing end-of-life care. The counseling will cover what kind of medical care patients want to receive as they approach their last days.

Dr. VJ Periyakoil, lead author of the Stanford study, encourages patients to prepare for these conversations, by using new planning tools. One such tool is the Stanford Letter Project, which helps patients write letters to their doctors specifying what kind of end-of-life care they do and don’t want.

To read the full article in Kaiser Health News, click here.