By Ian Richards
The European Union is conducting a five-year study to model the success of Gundersen Health’s “Respecting Choices” end-of-life care program in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Gundersen Health is one of Compassion & Choices’ coalition partners in the Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment.
Respecting Choices is so effective that it aided La Crosse in leading the nation in the percentage of residents who have completed an advanced directive: an incredible 96 percent!
It is no surprise that the EU chose Gundersen as the model for this study. Its internationally recognized program is based on a three-step method, as explained by the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel:
“Developed over the past two decades, Respecting Choices trains nurses, social workers, chaplains and others in how to have the often difficult conversations with patients and families on the care they would want at the end of life. It has been extensively adopted in Australia and is used by health systems in Singapore, Canada and other countries as well as parts of the United States …
“The first [step] focuses on advance care directives — the documents that state people’s wishes for how they want to be treated medically in the event that they cannot communicate, such as whether they would want to be kept alive through a feeding tube or ventilator.
“The second component deals with a situation in which someone has been diagnosed with a chronic and progressive disease, such as heart failure. That person’s goals, for instance, may have changed since completing an advance directive.
“The last step is for people with a specific condition who are expected to die within a year, such as someone with terminal cancer or someone in their late 80s with multiple conditions and failing health who has been frequently hospitalized.
“This step involves a document known as Physician Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment, a set of medical orders that must be signed by a doctor.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The international recognition and replication of Gundersen Health’s program is proof that their methods are the gold standard for end-of-life care.