Bioethics Blogs

Conversations Regarding End of Life Decisions

Talking about end of life decisions and death can be uncomfortable. Talking about death and end of life care decisions with the ones we are closest to can be paralyzing. Maybe the difficulty comes from the desire to avoid any thoughts of losing the ones we love. Perhaps it is an expression of denying the reality of death. Even though death is a reality everyone faces, we often avoid it in our conversations. When we do discuss it, is often at time when its presence is looming. At this point, the conversation surrounding end of life decisions is often taking place when stress is high, exhaustion is unavoidable, and emotions responding in full force. While we should have these conversations with the ones we love, the timing can greatly impact the way we leave it.  These conversations are best had often, and not limited to what feels like desperate situations.

The conversations will vary, but the following are some things I think are worth consideration and discussion when thinking about making end of life decisions:
– Discuss what type of health care intervention you and your loved ones would want, or not want.
– Talk about palliative care.
– Discuss what you would consider ordinary care versus extraordinary care.
– Try to understand the personal values held by one another. Don’t shy away from ethical concerns and if you are troubled by something discuss it earlier rather than later when a decision must be made.
– Talk about your spiritual state with one another.

These conversations can be difficult, but they are important.

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.