Warehousing and Torturing Dying Patients? Conference Promises a Different Future
(3 months ago)
HENDERSON, Nev., Feb. 12: Final Exit Network, an organization dedicated to achieving a peaceful death, is sponsoring a hemisphere-wide conference to bring together bioethicists, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, hospice chaplains, legal experts, and lay individuals to discuss better and more responsive ways for individuals to choose a peaceful death, no matter what they are suffering from, at the end of their lives. The conference, titled Dying in the Americas 2018, will take place in Henderson, Nevada, March 21-24, 2018.
End-of-life health care costs have skyrocketed, creating a crisis in our health care system, with a huge imbalance of health care costs coming during the last six months of life. Studies are showing that quality of life does not correlate with these extremely high end-of-life expenditures, which bankrupt families and take much-needed resources from other health care priorities. Unfortunately, these health care expenditures are resulting in traumatic deaths and needless invasive procedures. In fact, surveys are showing that emergency room treatment, admittance to intensive care units, and aggressive treatments actually are likely to cause more harm than other choices, such as palliative care and earlier hospice entry for ill patients. Alternatives, such as earlier hospice care that allows cancer patients to continue treatments, but also to receive palliative care, achieve a better outcome for both patients and their families, according to studies by insurance companies. Emergency room protocols admitting patients who have advance directives and only request palliative care could be created to be more sensitive to patient needs rather than promoting typical aggressive treatment, such as CPR, for elderly patients who often will not survive such treatments anyway.
Lawyers, doctors, bioethicists, and health care specialists from Canada, Latin America, and the U.S. will gather together to talk about dying and better practices for those individuals who want to prepare for death and be certain that their wishes are honored. Patient advocates have long said that current health care practices are torturing elderly patients, warehousing those with dementia and Alzheimer's, and often ignoring family and individuals wishes once patients are institutionalized. How can advance directives be created that can be honored in these circumstances? That is one of many difficult questions the conference hopes to answer.
Across health care systems in the U.S., death is only now being confronted in a compassionate way, with the requests of the individual patient beginning to take priority. Depending on what area you live in, your Advance Directives may or may not be honored. If you are institutionalized in a religious hospital, your wishes may not be honored. For that reason, aggressive legal strategies will be considered to force facilities to honor Advance Directives and end-of-life care wishes. These are only some of the issues to be discussed. Participants will hear from Canadian doctors, lawyers, and bioethicists who are implementing Canada's new right to die laws with compassion and sensitivity. In Canada, the Supreme Court has approved euthanasia and end of life choice as the right of every individual and has mandated that the Canadian health care system develop protocols to implement this right.