The debate about the future of health care has taken an ugly turn. President Obama's attempt to provide health care to all Americans has been hijacked by protesters who fear death panels. The real issue, however, is that what people fear is death itself. No one likes to think of their own death. However, people die, for all sorts of reasons. In most cases, death is a process, and within that process, there is time to contemplate one's death, how one would want to die, and to learn how death occurs. Simply discussing death does not mean you are going to die. For many people, discussing the dying process helps take the fear away. It gives them time to determine what is important to them, what needs to be resolved before their death,and time to see family and friends.
When I was a renal social worker, advance directives were an integral part of the work that I did with dialysis patients. Having an advance directive gives people power and control over their death. It allows them to say what they want or don't want. The important thing about an advance directive is that it allows the person to have their wishes followed when they are no longer in a position to say what they want. I found that people welcomed the chance to express their feelings. An advance directive can be changed, so if a person changes their mind about an issue, the a.d. can reflect that change.
It is good to talk about death and dying. Dying is a part of living. How many times do you hear that a beloved grandparent has died just weeks before the arrival of a new baby? The circle of life is a beautiful one, and by talking about it and showing respect for the individual, we honor that person.