Washington, D.C. – Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest and oldest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, today called for better choice and care at the first-ever national end-of-life symposium convening today through Wednesday at the National Press Club. The symposium addresses end-of-life policy, politics, medicine and ethics in a series of calm, adult presentations about the very difficult situation of end of life care in the US. No hysteria, no childish tantrums about death panels and killing granny. Experts from all over the country are calling for more resources, for hospice care, and public policy informed by facts and analysis. The Symposium brings together end-of-life legal, medical, cultural, religious and political experts. Surviving family members from across the nation described the deaths their loved ones experienced, making a compelling case for better end-of-life choices and care.
“Our nation’s heated debate on health insurance reform has focused attention on end-of-life care. It’s time to go beyond fearful charges and speak calmly and rationally. Compassion & Choices is helping to move our nation’s health care debate beyond misinformation about ‘death panels’ and ‘killing granny’. It is in end-of-life care that the current system most tragically fails patients and the people who love them. Too many people suffer needlessly in their dying, and we as a nation must do better,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee in a news conference kicking off the two-day symposium.
Coombs Lee called for a new “patient-centered” focus in end-of-life care, and released seven principles to realign care and policy to better serve patients. “Today, the experience of patients is lost in a flood of tests and treatments that often subvert any effort to navigate a fitting end to a well-lived life. Changing the focus from the disease to the person who has the disease would create radical change indeed. Decent and simple, the principles are focus, self-determination, autonomy, personal beliefs, informed consent, balance and notice. Compassion & Choices’ 7 Principles for Patient Centered End-of-Life Care are intended to guide policy-makers and other reformers.
Dr. Elmer Huerta, former president, American Cancer Society spoke about making plans for the end of life and the role of your family in these discussions, “End-of-life care is a sensitive and personal issue that everyone will one day face. Families need careful explanations, time to process information, and consistent professional support to meet the challenges to their decision-making capacities. It is important that families and individuals conduct these conversations with their physicians to ensure that their final wishes for end-of-life care are known, respected and fulfilled.”
The Congressional Honorary Host Committee for the Symposium consists of dedicated, distinguished individuals who have worked tirelessly to improve the quality of end of life care. In addition to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Committee members include U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D- OR), David Wu (D-OR), and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL).
To read more information about the Compassion & Choices Dignity & Choices Symposium, click here.