Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Conversation

Yesterday my husband and I had the conversation.   

I'm talking about the "end of life" conversation.

Have you had one? Please do.

Deployment forces it upon you but it's a conversation that everyone should have and it's easier than you think.  We ended our conversation with tears but it was worth it.  I learned some things that I never would have known if I hadn't asked.  For instance, I had no idea that my husband wants to be cremated.

Clearly, no one wants to talk about death.  It's something that we all desperately try to avoid. We push it back into the far depths of our brains and never dare utter a word for fear that talking about it will make it come true.  In truth, death is a part of life and we should all have control over our own lives. 

God forbid anything suddenly happens to you.  Making your wishes known is so incredibly important so that your health care providers can treat you in the way that you would choose.  Also, understanding how your loved ones feel allows you to make easy decisions regarding their care.  It avoids conflict, guilt, pain, and uncertainty.   

Do you know what you would want if you were on life support with virtually no chance of a productive life?  10% chance of recovery? 40%? 70%? Would you want everything done or not?
How do you feel about feeding tubes? How do you feel about dialysis? Blood transfusions? Chemotherapy when you will likely die anyway? What does "quality of life" mean to you?
Do you want to be an organ donor?  What about donating to education? Are there specific organs you wouldn't want donated?
Do you want to be buried or cremated or both?
What do you want for a funeral?

Do your loved ones know how you feel about these things?
Do you know how they feel?

Do you have a health care proxy? We should ALL have one.  It doesn't matter if you are young, old, sick or healthy.  If you are an adult, you should have a health care proxy.

What is a health care proxy?  
A health care proxy is a person that you designate to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.  It only takes effect if you are somehow incapacitated and cannot make your own health care decisions.  This person will make any necessary decisions regarding your care and they will do so in a way that respects your wishes.

Who should I choose?  
You should choose someone that you trust to make decisions based on your beliefs and not their own.  It should be someone that you feel comfortable talking to about these issues.  People usually choose their spouse, parents, children, siblings, or sometimes a close friend.  Sometimes people even pick their lawyer. To avoid conflict (and Terry Schiavo situations), pick just one person.  You can name others as back-ups if your health care proxy is unavailable.

How do I get one?
It varies a little by state but you don't even need a lawyer to get one.  All you need to do take a little time to think about what you want for yourself, download your state form off the internet, fill it out, and have some witnesses sign it.   Importantly, talk to your designated health care proxy about your wishes and let them know how you feel about different situations.

That's it. It's easy.  I dare you.

Talk about it.


  1. I agree. We had this conversation a few weeks ago due to deployment. Before deployment, it was a one sided conversation from my side, working in ICU I'm faced with death frequently from children to older adults. I hate the conversation but glad we had it. Though, I need to declare myself a healthcare proxy and write down my wants, but i know his and i am declared his.

  2. We've had it, but not in a ton of detail.. so maybe we should revisit, thank you :)

  3. My Marine and I had the conversation a few weeks ago. It was harder on me than him, but we did it and now I am glad we did. I agree, it is hard but necessary.

  4. Hey im your newest follower :) Have a great Sunday!

  5. Just came across your blog- I'm a 2nd year medical student. I'm so glad you posted about this- the lack of conversation about what people would like at the end of life (may it come soon, or hopefully after a long and full life) is so frustrating. I'm not sure what field I'll enter, but I know I'll encourage this type of dialogue if I'm not dealing with these decisions directly.


    PS- Best of luck with the match this week!!


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