End-of-life planning isn’t fun, but it’s inevitable

Whether you believe in science, God, neither or some combination of the two — we can all agree that death is inevitable. Due to the finality of our lives, each of us should understand and prepare for that moment not only for ourselves but also for our loved ones. As medicine continues to advance and people live longer, we have a generation of baby boomers who are now entering their 60s and 70s. It is important to know their wishes now when they have the full capacity to make these decisions. If family or health care providers have no knowledge of how you want the end of life to take place the situation can become complicated.

I am sure you’ve heard of the infamous DNR: “Do Not Resuscitate.” The DNR conversation is something that doctors, patients and families alike can dread, but can go smoothly if the right questions are asked before the end of life is near. DNR is a written legal order that withholds cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for a patient in the event their heart stops. As I wrote that last sentence, I found myself disliking the word “resuscitate”. Using the word can be misleading. When CPR is performed, the chances of survival are slim. Most studies show dismal rates of patients walking out of the hospital after undergoing CPR. So to say, “Do Not Resuscitate” implies that when we do CPR we can miraculously resuscitate patients and therein the confusion lies. Before initiating CPR patients and families should be aware of how it is performed and who benefits. Physicians should explain that we will do everything in our power to save their lives if a reversible cause is apparent. But we should also make clear that if a situation or illness arises in which a patient would not benefit from extreme measures, then we will make sure the patient is comfortable during their foreseen death.

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