Newswise — An overwhelming majority of Americans support laws giving dying patients the right to decide if they wish to be kept alive through medical treatment, and yet less than a third of such patients have put their wishes in writing, government statistics show.
Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, leads a Cedars-Sinai committee – with doctors, nurses and administrators -- searching for ways to help families make difficult decisions, limit patient suffering and avoid costly procedures at the end of life.
He has written about his family’s own struggle with end-of-life care, recalling what went wrong with his parents’ treatment even as his in-laws died peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones and caregivers.
Dr. Braunstein says doctors and other caregivers should encourage patients and families to have tough conversations about end-of-life care. He urges more reliance on palliative care and hospice services and greater use of advanced directives, or living wills; those documents allow individuals to specify steps to be taken if incapacitated by illness. “As a nation, we must do a better job of providing end-of-life care,” he says.
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