End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Posts TaggedSteve Kroft

60 Minutes Highlights Problem of Americans “Dying Badly”

CBS News broadcasted a story on Sunday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT on dying in America.  Compassion & Choices,  applauds the effort to highlight how many Americans meet death in contradiction to their values, beliefs and stated desires, but disagrees with the focus on cost.

“Families cannot imagine there could be anything worse than their loved one dying. But in fact, there are things worse,” says Dr. Ira Byock in the broadcast. “Most generally, it’s having someone you love die badly – dying, suffering, dying connected to machines.” Byock heads the palliative care program at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. “Much end-of-life care merely prolongs a miserable dying process,” said

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of Compassion and Choices. “As individuals face the end of life, and try to navigate the health care system, their own values and choices should be paramount. We know the greatest tragedy is the human cost, not the monetary cost.”

The story of Margaret Furlong demonstrates how badly end-of-life care can stray from patient wishes. Margaret entered the hospital with an advance directive, stating she was not to receive CPR or extraordinary efforts to keep her alive. Suffering from ulcers on her shoulder and hip, she was in constant pain. The hospital had Furlong’s advance directive, but mistakenly believed she wanted every effort to keep her alive.