My Family Is Reluctant To Talk About Dying And The Issue Of CPR. What Can I Do To Help Start The Conversation?

With increasing technology, doctors are able to keep many patients alive longer, but in doing so we sometimes cause unnecessary suffering.  Therefore, it’s important for families to know one another’s wishes regarding how they want to be treated and how much suffering they would be willing to endure when the end of life [EOL] approaches.



Studies report that although most people say it is important to write down EOL wishes, few have actually done so.  Fortunately, there are some resources available to help guide a discussion about dying-related issues.  One is the Engage With Grace One Slide Project  [www.engagewithgrace.org].  It has five questions on “one slide” or page, which a family (or any group) can discuss together: 


1. On a scale of 1-5, where do you fall on this continuum?  [from 1= let me die without medical intervention, to 5= don’t give up on me no matter what, try any proven and unproven intervention possible]

2. If there were a choice, would you prefer to die at home, or in a hospital?

3. Could a loved one correctly describe how you’d like to be treated in the case of a terminal illness?

4. Is there someone you trust whom you’ve appointed to advocate on your behalf when the time is near?

5. Have you completed any of the following:  written a living will, appointed a healthcare power of attorney, or completed an advance directive?

These discussions often raise more questions—such as, How successful is CPR [CardioPulmonary Rescuscitation]? Do feeding tubes help?—prompting people to seek more information (my website comfortcarechoices.com has some info); and hopefully, in the end, everyone will have completed an Advance Directive and knows what the other family members want.