Death is a universal phenomenon. It does not only happen to people over ninety years old. Death happens in natural or unnatural means to anybody, young or old, healthy or sick. The cases of Karen Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, and Terri Schiavo, that sparked public interest in medical ethics and end-of-life care happened when they were in their 20’s.
Death is a sad reality, which makes it a difficult and uncomfortable topic of conversation. Our culture, in general, is still aversive to death. Many still believe that the field of medicine is more assertive in doing everything to save lives and to battle death.
Death may be seen as a failure of medicine. Some believe that talking about death or tending to the spiritual needs of the sick would ensure that death would happen soon. There are also those who think that the decision not to discontinue aggressive and life-sustaining treatments may provide God with the opportunity to listen to their prayers and perform miracles at the last minute.
These lines of reasoning do not mean discounting our faith but presenting and correcting a seemingly misleading direction that is still prevalent in our faith community. If we remain uninformed of the true tenet of the Church’s teachings, including on end- of- life care, we may not be able to effectively plan a dignified end-of-life decision.
Many people confront end-of-life issues when a crisis is already happening. They expressed confusion on how to proceed with the medical care of their loved ones who were already at the point of death. There are also apprehensions on stopping treatments because of guilt feeling or lack of consensus among family members whether to continue certain medical interventions.
Conversations on advance care planning will allow us to explain, clarify and ask questions on our medical preferences at the end of life. This will help avoid the emotional tension of putting our family members or surrogate in a spot where they have to make a difficult decision on your behalf if you are unable to do so. If we properly expressed our end-of-life preferences, family members may have peace in whatever decisions they make on your behalf knowing that they follow your wishes.