Public Health

The Shocking Truth About Death!

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In a recent New York Times article entitled Posting to Mourn a ‘Friend’ writer Ian Lovett wrote about how Facebook and Twitter Posts have contributed to a phenomenon of public mourning.


The article notes that: “For much of the 20th century, this type of public mourning, even for loved ones, was frowned on in Western culture, according to Katherine Ashenburg, author of “The Mourner’s Dance: What We Do When People Die.” But toward the end of the last century, as celebrity culture rose, people began mourning for famous people whom they did not know, like John Lennon or Diana, more expressively than they grieved for their own family members.”

It continues: “Social media has given people a kind of community to mourn in,” Ms. Ashenburg said. “Death has entered the conversation again. This shows that we’re willing to put words to it and express ourselves, even at a level that might be kind of facile.”
How nice that we can mourn and grieve and discuss famous people’s deaths but when it comes to death and dying in our family, well:
The Shocking Truth about Death is that we 
Don’t Discuss It!
We might want to take a lesson from Engage With Grace: The One Slide Project.
It was designed with one simple goal: to help get the conversation about end of life experience started. Five questions designed to help get us talking with each other, with our loved ones, about our preferences. Here they are:
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, where do you fall on this continuum?     
    Let me die without medical intervention Don’t give up on me no matter what, try any proven and unproven intervention possible
  • If there were a choice, would you prefer to die…
    , or  ?     
  • Could a loved one correctly describe how you’d like to be treated in the case of a terminal illness?
  • Is there someone you trust whom you’ve appointed to advocate on your behalf when the time is near?
  • Have you completed any of the following: written a living will, appointed a healthcare power of attorney, or completed an advanced directive?
The truth is that most people do not die according to their wishes. And they should. 
So here’s another resource: Five Wishes.
It lets your family and doctors know:
  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
  • The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
  • How comfortable you want to be.
  • How you want people to treat you.
  • What you want your loved ones to know.
Five Wishes has become America’s most popular living will because it is written in everyday language and helps start and structure important conversations about care in times of serious illness.
More than 15 million copies of Five Wishes are in circulation across the nation, distributed by more than 23,000 organizations. Five Wishes meets the legal requirements in 42 states and is useful in all 50.

Five Wishes was introduced in 1997 and originally distributed with support from a grant by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Five Wishes Online was introduced in 2011, allowing people to complete Five Wishes on screen and print out a personalized document immediately. It is available in 26 languages.

My wife and I are completing ours. You should as well.

We need to discuss death and dying in this culture and not avoid it. It is ultimately about quality of life at the end of life.

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