Bioethics Blogs

Getting End-of-Life Care Right in MA

When people are willing to consider their own mortality, they tend to want to die at home. This is not, however, what often occurs. We don’t talk about dying, and we die more often than we’d like, or than is necessary, on a hospital critical care ward.

To its credit, Massachusetts is addressing this disparity. And it will involve a more central role for the palliative care specialty. This is a very good thing.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is in the process of creating what it terms Regulations Regarding the Information and Counseling about Palliative Care and End-of-Life Treatment Options.

What the DPH is hearing is that the chances improve to give people the “good deaths” they wish for when the palliative care specialty plays a more central role, and the medical system knows their wishes.

The DPH sought out testimony in reaction to a draft of these regulations, and last Thursday heard from the chair of the state’s Expert Panel on End of Life Care, the executive directors of the Conversation Project and MOLST program, among several others.

By coincidence, on the day of this testimony, a Pew survey found that “at a time of national debate over health care costs and insurance … most Americans say there are some circumstances in which doctors and nurses should allow a patient to die. At the same time, however, a growing minority says that medical professionals should do everything possible to save a patient’s life in all circumstances.”

“In all circumstances” would seem to mean regardless what the patient wants or what the doctors think best.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.