I am at the Chautauqua Institute in Chautauqua NY for three weeks now. It is a wondrous place we frequent every year!
This year with the help of the Department of Religion I have been able to schedule weekly talks on end of life issues, mainly talking about advance care planning and the courageous conversations we need to have with our families, the three questions, as already described in this blog earlier.
The response has been overwhelming. I was expecting maybe 20 people initially but close to 100 showed up. Every week now we have 140 or more attendees.
Even though a fair number (70-80% or so) of the attendees have living wills or advance directives, there was an extremely positive response to the value added by the three questions which define your minimum acceptable levels for supporting life by artificial means, be it medicines or machines or artificial hydration and nutrition via IVs or tubes.
There is still a lot of confusion over CPR, DNR, Healthcare Agent (POA) and their ability to make independent decisions.
There is also a lot of interest in euthanasia and physician assisted suicide.
Many people voiced their concern over management of dementia in family members and were worried about what to do for themselves if they also suffered from the same in the future. They found that at least in setting the advance care plan, they had some control over their lives which was very reassuring to them.
This experience of teaching large numbers of lay people in the essentials of conversations and seeing their reaction and evaluations reaffirms my belief that one of the simplest and most important conversations is to address the three questions - as already covered in this blog on earlier dates.
If everyone in the US did this, end of life decisions would be much, much easier and the cost of healthcare even will go down by not doing unnecessary, futile treatments.
It has been a most gratifying experience both professionally and personally, and I wish to thank Maureen Rovegno at the Department of Religion for the opportunity, my wife Jean for her support and help with this endeavor and God for Chautauqua Institute!!
If you have never been here, it is time you came.
At least go visit it on ciweb.org.