I've been hearing about the Five Wishes with increasing regularity, either in my own research of end-of-life issues or conversations at my church. And when I visited the Aging With Dignity website to learn more, I came upon this recent letter from the non-profit's president, Bill Malley. I found it insightful, and so post it here.
January 5, 2011
“Aging with Dignity is disappointed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services chose to withdraw its new guideline that added voluntary advance care planning to the roster of topics to be covered during annual Medicare-paid physician visits. However, we are greatly encouraged in knowing that many forward-thinking physicians will continue to raise this important issue with their patients, whether or not they are directed to do so. Advance care planning, end-of-life care, palliative medicine and hospice care are worthy subjects of discussion in and of themselves and ought not automatically be dismissed as components of ‘death panels.’
“As the largest provider of advance directives in the nation, Aging with Dignity believes that good advance care planning is always patient-centered and begun between and among family members. The best advance directives are those that are easy to understand and use and allow patients to decide for themselves what is wanted or not wanted. Physicians and other health care providers should assist, not direct, this process.
“Americans do not require government permission or guidance to begin important family conversations about end-of-life care preferences. Indeed, the best hope for overall improvement lies in more people themselves taking the initiative to complete an advance directive. Federal and state officials can do their part by removing the remaining statutory and regulatory barriers to effective and patient-centered advance care planning.”