Advance care planning is critical.

In a comprehensive study on end-of-life care in the United States, Institute of Medicine researchers learned that:

  • Most deaths occur after a chronic, progressive and ultimately fatal illness;
  • About 80% of deaths occur while the patient is under the care of health professionals;
  • About 50% of people are incapable of participating in important end-of-life decisions;
  • The responsibility of making end-of-life decisions is burdensome and stressful when health professionals or loved ones have not discussed end-of-life issues with the patient; and
  • When health professionals are unsure of what decisions to make, the default is to treat.

Source: Approaching death: improving care at the end of life, (Marilyn J. Field & Christine K. Cassel eds., 1997)

So what does this mean for us? We need to do a better job of dealing with these issues. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Discussing our wishes with our healthcare providers and loved ones
  • Selecting a Healthcare Surrogate who can make healthcare decisions that align with our wishes and beliefs
  • Documenting our wishes