I often joke that we need to install a wine bar in the corner of our conference room, or maybe even a soft ice cream dispenser. Our clients need something to take the edge off the conversation we are about to have: how would you like to die. Do you want surgery if it will extend your life but not the quality of your life? If your cancer is terminal, do you want chemotherapy? If you are in a coma, do you want your family to withhold hydration or nutrition?
These “right to die” issues appear in the news a few times each year. Recently, we heard about the independent living facility employee in California who refused to resuscitate the elderly resident of a nursing home who stopped breathing. (The nursing home acted appropriately, by the way. The resident was aware of the facility’s “no resuscitation” policy and had wanted no resuscitation.) We also heard about the dispute between family members of Terri Schiavo as to whether to remove her from life support.
A relative recently posted this article on her Facebook account, which only reinforced the importance of having this conversation. Here, the ER doctor points out that, since we live longer as a society, we are not used to dealing with death. He also discusses how death by disease is a natural process and yet, people fight tooth and nail to stop this process. Instead, we obsess about peacefully dying in our sleep. “
As difficult as it is, it’s time to grab that glass of wine, that scoop of ice cream, or whatever else brings you comfort and have that conversation with your family about how you want to die. The good news is that, once you have it, you won’t have to have it again. And maybe you will even discover a new favorite merlot.