In the annals of outrageous and damaging demagoguery, it's hard to beat the "death panel." Thankfully, there are sane, responsible people participating in the end-of-life discussion as well. The Engage with Grace movement offers a simple, one-slide PowerPoint presentation that lays out the five questions people should ask themselves about end-of-life care. The movement asks health policy and health care professionals to add the slide at the end of their powerpoint presentations, and asks individuals to share the questions with their friends and family.
The site also offers discussion guides and resources for helping people answer their questions and understand the issues they have to confront, and conversation-starters for people who want to talk to their loved ones about plans and desires. Their goal is simple, but admirable: to spark a conversation about end-of-life care, outside of health policy circles; to get people talking about what they want, what they value, and how to die, as Engage with Grace puts it, with purpose.
A personal note: These questions are hard. I've spent a reasonable amount of time thinking about end-of-life issues, both from a systemic perspective and in asking what I would want for myself. The issue was a large part of what attracted me to the field of health policy. Even having thought about these issues, though, I can't answer all of the questions on the slide to my satisfaction, and I can't answer them for my family members. I do plan to send this on to them, and I hope I'll have a better idea of their wishes -- and mine -- soon. I strongly encourage everyone, inside and outside of health policy, to take a moment and consider the questions Engage with Grace poses, as they apply to your own life. After all, if we can't talk to our families and friends about these issues, have we got a payer of ever having a serious national conversation?
One last thought: it's easy to avoid having the conversation, but impossible to avoid making decisions. The only choice is whether to make them consciously, and whether to be prepared.
Many thanks to Don Taylor at The Incidental Economist for the tip.