The Washington Post: As a longtime professional chaplain, mostly serving people with cancer and their loves ones, I have been invited into many family conversations about making health-care decisions for a loved one at the end of life. Unfortunately, all too often, these conversations were held absent the person who was dying because that person was no longer able to participate. And too often, these conversations focused on trying to come to consensus in the family about “what mom would want.” And since no one had ever asked mom directly, the family was left to guess as best it could.
Sometimes these conversations were quick and everyone agrees readily that “Mom wouldn’t want to live this way,” but often they were contentious or at least didn’t result in a way forward that everyone was confident was the right one. These endings often left family members second-guessing themselves long after their loved one’s death.
Many people think that the solution to this issue is to have the proper documents in place. Have a will, have your state-approved advance directive document and health-care proxy filled out, share those documents with your physician and your family, and make sure your proxy understands what your wishes are as expressed in those documents. These are all wonderful and helpful steps and everyone should take them, but it is a mistake to think that this is enough.