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Care at the End of Life - Important Decisions

Talking to your doctor continued...

Important questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What are my treatment options? What are the side effects of these treatments?
  • What do you think will happen if I choose not to treat my illness?
  • How long do you think I have to live?
  • Will you tell me when you think I am ready for hospice?
  • How soon do I need to make a decision about which treatment to use (or to not use)?
  • How will my illness and care affect my loved ones?

Prepare for your appointments by writing down your questions and concerns and taking this paper to your appointment. This will help you remember to address the important issues.

As your illness progresses, you may become too ill to continue seeing your doctor at a clinic or to talk on the telephone. If you wish to be at home as you die, it is helpful to designate only one family member or friend to communicate with your doctor. Choosing one reliable person to relay messages will help avoid the confusion caused by several people trying to communicate with your doctor.

Aggressive life-sustaining medical treatment

Discuss with your loved ones and doctor how you feel about life-sustaining treatment.

Tough choices include whether you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) performed on you if your heart stops. If you stop breathing, a ventilator or respirator may be used to mechanically breathe for you. Although mechanical ventilation can prolong your life, your remaining days may be spent in the intensive care unit of a hospital connected to life-support equipment. You may not be fully alert and may not be able to speak.

Talk to your doctor about your illness, specific treatment options, and chances for recovery. Your family is a key part of this process. Discuss your options with them and clearly state your wishes. Some people who are facing death have strong and definite feelings about CPR, and the decision for or against life support may be easy. For other people, this decision is extremely difficult.

For more information on this decision, see:

dplink.gif Should I Receive CPR and Life Support?
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