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Don’t wait for reform to make end-of-life decisions

By Staff | Aug 21, 2009

Health care reform is dominating the news across the country. This discussion is important and will help shape future legislation. Included in the proposed plan by the House is the Advance Care Planning Consultation provision, which allows for a consultation by a health care provider to determine an individual’s end-of-life care preferences. The consultation is initiated by the patient and is completely voluntary.

As CEO of Hospice of the Panhandle, I am following this particular provision with much interest. At the very root of hospice care is the requirement to follow the person’s wishes. Our staff members have witnessed the struggle when wishes were not expressed and family members were left to try to figure out what their loved one would have wanted.

I support any opportunity for an individual to discuss their desires for treatment and care before a crisis occurs. This discussion has two advantages: First, the person receives the care he/she wants; Second, the family is relieved of making difficult decisions with limited information.

The House provision allows for reimbursement of the consultation and it clearly states that treatment options may range from full treatment to no interventions. The provision allows for discussion so that an individual can make an informed decision. It does not direct care choices or require limited treatment.

We need not wait for health care reform to consider our end-of-life care wishes. I encourage every individual to consider his/her desires for care at the end-of-life and to make those choices known to your health care provider and your family by completing an advance directive. Making these decisions early, before a crisis, and revisiting them periodically will assure you have the care you want and will be one of the greatest gifts you can give your family.

Margaret Cogswell, CEO

Hospice of the Panhandle