Tag Archives: dying

End-of-Life Lessons From Doctors

Doctors deal with death a lot more often than those of us who don’t practice medicine. For many specialists, it’s part of the job sometimes, and it inevitably colors the way they ultimately deal with their own deaths.

So when it comes to their end-of-life decisions, do doctors die differently than the rest of us? 

Ken Murray, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California, examined this question in a thoughtful piece on Zócalo Public Square. His observations certainly provide food for thought. Murray highlights survey findings from a Johns Hopkins Precursors Study:

According to the study, 65 percent of the doctors (or former medical students) had created an advance directive, i.e. a set of legal documents spelling out in advance what sort of end-of-life care they would like. Only about 20 percent of the public does this. When asked whether they would want cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, if they were in a chronic coma, about 90 percent of the Johns Hopkins doctors said no. Only about 25 percent of the public gives the same answer.

I discussed the tense, and often tragic, circumstances that surround many of the treatment decisions made in hospitals. Often, I noted, family members or medical staff effectively override the wishes of a dying patient. The studies I’ve found on this suggest that family plays a particularly big role in taking things in an unintended direction,especially when there’s nothing in writing[we added the italics].

Now that’s quite jarring. But also not entirely surprising. From our perspective, the question is, what do you do with this information? And we like Murray’s constructive conclusion on this matter and his advice for patients:

We don’t like to think about death. But that avoidance is one reason so many Americans fail to arrange an advance directive, even when they are severely ill. When patients of mine would come to my office accompanied by a family member, I often asked the patient how he or she wanted to die. I didn’t do it because the patient was on the brink of death, or even sick. I did it because I wanted the patient to think about the question and also to make sure that a loved one got to hear the answer [again, the italics are ours]. Unwanted futile measures, prolonged deaths, and hospital deaths remain commonplace in America and many other places. But they don’t have to be. It just requires our doctors and, no less, the rest of us to come to terms with the inevitable.

Crossposted at MyDirectives.Com

California Survey Highlights End-of-Life Problem

Most Californians would prefer to die a natural death at home, comfortable and without pain, according to a survey released by The California Healthcare Foundation last week.

Two-thirds said they’d prefer to die peacefully if suffering from a prolonged illness, with only 7% choosing all possible care to prolong life.

The problem is, that isn’t the way most Californians die.

Only 32% die at home, with 42% dying in hospitals and 18% in nursing homes. (“Other” accounts for the balance.)

And, given the way most medical facilities work, most of the 60% whose lives end in hospitals or nursing homes receive many more tests, surgeries and procedures than they would have wanted.

Why aren’t Californians dying the way they want?

Because only 23% have recorded their end-of-life preferences in writing.

Even though 82% say it’s important to do so.


That’s a complex question.

41% say they have “too many other things to worry about right now.” 26% “don’t want to think about death or dying.”

Of course. We all understand those reasons.

But we also know that, historically, creating an advance medical directive has been complicated, confusing and costly. Finding the right forms, consulting lawyers or notaries, knowing where to store them — those obstacles all made advance directives just too hard for most people to tackle on their own.

Not anymore.

MyDirectives.com makes creating advance directives simple, clear and free. You get to choose where you’d prefer to be. What kinds of end-of-life treatments you’d want to receive and which you wouldn’t. You also get to designate several people who can make those decisions for you if you aren’t able to make them yourself.

When you’re done, your universal Advance Digital Directive (uADD™) will be securely stored online. Only the loved ones and caregivers you authorize will have access to your wishes.

You’ll then have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that, at the end, your loved ones won’t be left wondering why you didn’t let them know what you wanted them to do.

Like the families of 82% of today’s Californians.

The complete California Healthcare Foundation survey results can be found here.