Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Understanding Your Health Choices: Conversations Before the Crisis

A difficult conversation between father and son

Steven brings up the subject of death.

Dad," he says. "I've been thinking about the end of life lately, the end of my life. I know it sounds weird. Nothing is wrong. But a friend of mine at work had a terminal illness and his family didn't know what he wanted. The family disagreed about what to do, if he should be put on a ventilator and other stuff, and it made the whole thing so much harder. I don't want that to happen if I should suddenly be in that situation."

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

Is Happiness About Attitude?

By Erinn Bucklan The Rumor: A positive outlook helps create positive experiences Bad stuff happens. But is it possible that simply approaching life with a glass-half-full attitude can actually cause better things to occur? The Verdict: Happiness is born of both positivity and negativity Turns out a healthy dose of pessimism can, at times, be a good thing. A study published by the American Psychological Association says that two-thirds of pessimists lived longer and had healthier...

Read the Is Happiness About Attitude? article > >

"Let's not talk about this now," his father says. "You're healthy and young, and nothing bad is going to happen to you. Besides, if we talk about it, it could come true."

"Talking about difficult things does not make them happen. Since Deborah is my wife she'd have the legal responsibility to decide, but I would want you and Mom to understand and help her. And to be able to explain to the kids that this is the way I wanted it."

"So tell Deborah, but don't tell me. I don't want to know."

The conversation has begun. Steven and Deborah begin their own conversation and complete their advance medical directives. A few months after the first conversation, Steven gives his father a copy of his plans.

"Dad, I know that you don't want to talk about this, but Deborah and I have agreed on what we each want, and have written it down. My doctor has a copy. I want you to know that I plan to be conscious and able to communicate as long as possible, while Deborah is worried about pain and would prefer to be sedated, even if it means being out of touch. Which do you think you would want?"

"I don't want to choose. I want to die in my sleep."

"Well, that may happen, but you can't be sure of that."

This may be as far as Steven can go right now. But it is a good bet that at some point, one of his parents will raise it with the other. Over time, Steven can use current events and family happenings to restate his concern. And Steven and Deborah are clear about their choices, and have informed their doctor.

There is another benefit. Steven purposely had these discussions in the hearing of his teenage children. He did not ask them to participate, but later, when his daughter asked why he insisted on bringing this up, he said, "I love my parents and I want to care for them, just as I want to take care of you. Dad and I don't agree on much, and what I would choose may not be what he would want. But this is part of what we need to do as a family. If you have any questions about these things, I hope you will ask your mother or me."

WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family