By Sarah Link
The Badger Herald
September 23, 2012
Madison’s local medical community will begin providing end-of-life planning discussions for patients and their families.
A written directive, taken in advance, would dictate a patient’s wishes of how they would like to be treated in case of medical emergency where they would be unable to tell their family themselves.
The effort is being coordinated by the Wisconsin Medical Society, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Lisa Sherven, the quality services manager for Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, explained Wisconsin is unique in its support for end-of-life planning discussions. Sherven, who has seen the effects of advanced care planning many times in her 11 years of experience as a hospice nurse, sees this as a positive thing for patients.
“You want your wishes to be heard and to be important,” Sherven said. “A patient who has an advanced planning directive will not be taking resources from healthcare that is unwanted.”
For example, there is a large cost to keeping someone on life support, Sherven said.
According to Sherven, two physicians first have to verify that the patient is unable to make their own decisions before their advanced planning directive would come into effect.
Dr. Sarah Van Orman, director of University Health Services , also voiced her support for end-of-life planning in advance.
“These planning discussions are very important, very positive for both families and patients,” Van Orman said.
Since most people have strong feelings about how they want to be treated if they are put on life support or in critical condition, Van Orman believes it is important patients get those wishes down on paper.
Van Orman agrees having these discussions early will save families and patients a lot of pain and guilt.
“These are decisions that need to be made,” Van Orman said.
According to Van Orman, during this emotional time, taking the burden of making tough decisions is taken off the family, and families can be at peace knowing their loved ones’ wishes were respected.
End-of-life planning also increases the number of patients in hospice care toward the end of their life, Van Orman said, which she believes is a positive thing because it eases the burden off families and assures the patient lives well and peacefully before their death.
Besides the personal impact, these discussions could also potentially have an important financial impact.
“If there is no planning directive, health care, as well as families, end up in a difficult situation,” Van Orman said.
Many local hospitals and health care facilities in Wisconsin are now offering more support for end-of-life or advanced care planning.
Mary Reinke, chief marketing and planning officer for Meriter Health Services, said they now offer monthly advanced care planning seminars for patients who wish to write a directive or update on their current one.
“We are all encouraged to have conversations with loved ones about our goals, values and preferences for future health care needs,” Reinke said. “And the best time to do this is before a medical crisis occurs.”