Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Compassion & Choices Campaign to Start the Conversation About End-of-Life

Compassion & Choices is launching a new campaign today aimed at encouraging patients to talk about end-of-life decisions with their doctors. According to C&C, the goal is to empower patients to understand their choices and make informed decisions. 

As all of you know, I'm a huge proponent of informed decision making in the doctor's office. Patients should know their options and be equipped with all of the tools they need in order to make the best decision for themselves. 

Especially with something as important as end-of-life matters, how to proceed should be a conversation between doctor and patient (or between the entire medical team and the patient), and I applaud Compassion & Choices for taking such a proactive step in this matter. 

The article includes a link to a "Letter to My Doctor" that you can use to begin this conversation if you are nervous about having it in person. Compassion & Choices is also providing visitation forms that LGBT patients can fill out to help ensure their partners are allowed in when they are hospitalized.

These are awesome resources from an awesome organization.   

Friday, May 22, 2009

First Death with Dignity in WA

Yesterday, Washington state had its first death under our new death with dignity law. It was a 66-year-old woman with stage four pancreatic cancer.

Here is an article about the case from The Seattle Times.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Edwin Schneidman, Pioneer in Suicide Prevention

All Things Considered had a nice obituary of Edwin Schneidman, a legendary researcher of suicide prevention. 

Along with publishing several books, Schneidman founded the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center and the American Association of Suicidology

As the obit points out, Schneidman believed suicidal tendencies could often begin to be untangled by asking two simple questions: "Where do you hurt?" and "How may I help you?" 

Schneidman lived to 91. In this audio piece, he shares a quote in which he describes showing up to the ER at the age of 90, disappointed to still be alive. Realize he hadn't died, he sobbed, because he was ready for death. 

He also often wrote about enriching life by contemplating death and dying and was a proponent of open dialogue on both topics, arguing that people should be unafraid of death. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Would Jesus Twitter?

Christian Sinclair alerted me to this site, which he called a good taste fail. I couldn't have said it better myself. 

The site is called Tweeji and is like Twitter, except all the tweets are from dead celebrities—Bettie Page, Shakespeare, and yes, even Jesus Christ himself. 

Today, Jesus tweeted, "My day is about to end and I never got to go Jew fishing!?!? I need to buy a planner." 

Are you kidding me? Is it just me or is this incredibly tacky? 

Other tweets seem more like actual quotes from the famous figures, just abbreviated into tweet-like spelling.

Walt Disney tweeted today, "I believe that entertainment usually fulfills sm vital & normal curiosity 4 every man, woman & child who seeks it." 

Would this site be funny if the application was better, or is the whole concept a fail from the start? It's definitely sensationalistic and interesting on that level, but once you get beyond the shock-value of the concept, most of the tweets are either completely straightforward and a little boring or so shocking that they can't help but be offensive. 

Check it out. Let me know what you think. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Online Estate Planning

NPR aired an interesting story this week about the legal battles that can ensue over email accounts, domain names, etc., after a person has passed away. 

A text version of the piece points out: "... few people have taken steps to plan for their digital afterlife. It's not yet common for people to include their online information in their wills, [John] Dozier [Jr.] says. And even if they did, and the properties were legally transferred to the beneficiaries, terms-of-service agreements on sites like Gmail and Facebook typically prohibit the use of an account by anyone other than the original owner, he says."

It's undoubtedly something we'll hear more about in the future as the portion of the population that has greater web presence begins to age. But man, it would never have occurred to me to include email passwords in my will. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lost Season Finale Tonight

No spoilers here, but I am speculating about what might happen, so if you don't want to read that, you should pass on this entry. 

All of you Lost fans out there know it is a complicated show with an active online community. The producers of the show will frequently throw in little details, inside jokes, non-cannon elements, that only the hardcore—you could say obsessive—fans will pick up on. (No dig intended here; I'm one of those obsessive fans.) It's not necessary to understanding the show, so if you don't pick up on it, it doesn't hurt your understanding of the show one bit. But it's fun if you catch it. 

One of these jokes is related to the "red shirts" phenomenon. This joke dates back to the original Star Trek series. The show, infamously, only had one extra costume for actors to wear when the crew went out on planetary expeditions. So, it would be Spock, Dr. McCoy, Captain Kirk, and some random dude in a red shirt. When bad things went down and someone died, guess who it was? The guy in the red shirt. 

So, producers of Lost will often put the extra who is going to die in a red shirt. Here's the story of one such unfortunate soul. 

In a big finale of a show that is definitely not afraid to kill off major characters, viewers are no doubt wondering whether someone will be killed. 

Well, several episodes ago, the character Juliette had a wardrobe change, and she's now wearing a red shirt. 

It makes me wonder. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Palliative Care Grand Rounds, Volume 1, Issue 4

If you haven't already, please go check out Palliative Care Grand Rounds, Volume 1, Issue 4 at the Medical Futility blog, run by Thaddeus Pope

It truly has a wealth of information on what's going on in the blogosphere regarding death, dying, hospice care, palliative care. It's probably more than you can absorb in one read. All the more reason to get started now!

The next PCGR will be hosted by Angela Morrow at : Palliative Care.  

We're starting to look like a community. Big props to Christian Sinclair for getting this all started. 

Dying Alone

Thanks to Gail for pointing me toward this story.

A woman in South Carolina passed away and was not discovered for 18 months. The woman is described as a lonely widow who had lost contact with most of the people in her life. 

Her dog died of thirst in the same room as her, and even when her home was sold for back taxes, it seems no one visited the property and found her body. 

It's terribly sad. I keep trying to think about whether good end-of-life care would have helped her avoid this situation. 

But, if you live your life alone, how do you avoid dying alone? 

Swine Flu Stigma?

So, this is interesting. Over the weekend, Washington state had its first death attributed to swine flu, and the family of the deceased is arguing with the official cause of death. 

It seems they are worried about a possible stigma attached to the man having died of swine flu. The family is pointing out that he was 5'6" and over 400 pounds and had many health problems. But after autopsy, health officials insist his death was caused by complications from the flu

The family's claims through me off a bit. I can see there being a stigma attached to having swine flu. It's being treated as a particularly virulent virus and people want to avoid it, so no one wants to be exposed. But is there a stigma to having died of it? 

Other diseases that carry or have carried stigmas in the past, let's say AIDS, it seems to me, it was because there was controversy surrounding the activities that could have led people to contract the disease. With AIDS, people are not always comfortable with homosexuality, sometimes drug users can contract it, sexually promiscuous people or people who don't use protection may be at greater risk. But the flu, even the swine flu, is just an airborne illness. 

Am I missing something? I don't see the stigma.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Middle Man

A hilarious clip about the reading of a will from one of my favorite shows, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

There's nothing new here, I just ran across this online and felt like sharing. 

I love the sweater Dee wears to her mother's will-reading :)