Monday, November 06, 2006

NYT: Better ending takes planning - Take time to prepare for a ‘good death’

As sudden deaths from heart attacks continue to decline and more people leave this life after a protracted illness, the concept of “a good death” has become ever more important to both the dying and those who survive them.

But what is a good death, and is it really the same for everyone? And what are the consequences of different approaches to death for those left behind?
The study identified six components of a good death, described in The Annals of Internal Medicine of May 16, 2000:

•Pain and symptom management. Pain, more so than dying itself, is too often the cause of acute anxiety among patients and their families.

•Clear decision making. Patients want to have a say in treatment decisions.

•Preparation for death. Patients want to know what to expect as their illness progresses and to plan for what will follow their deaths.

•Completion. This includes reviewing one’s life, resolving conflicts, spending time with family and friends, and saying good-bye.

•Contribution to others. Many people nearing death achieve a clarity as to what is really important in life and want to share that understanding with others.

•Affirmation. Study participants emphasized the importance of being seen as a unique and whole person and being understood in the context of their lives, values and preferences.

This study says that dying can, and should, be a much less painful experience for many more people and their loved ones than it now is.

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