In the decades she’s spent working in intensive care units across the U.S., Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter has seen a lot of patients’ final moments.

Some have been painful, long and drawn out, while others have been what she describes as “beautiful deaths” in which the patient is surrounded by family, cocooned in love during their last days.

But far too often, it’s other people who dictate how a patient dies—whether well-meaning but ill-informed family members or doctors who see the patient in his or her last hours.

We recently sat down with Dr. Zitter to talk about her new book, “Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life”, and to hear her advice on how people can start planning for end-of-life care.

Why You Need an End-of-Life Care Plan

A “collective tendency to ignore death” on the part of both patients and medical professionals leads to “tremendous suffering,” Zitter says.

Oftentimes patients facing death have never discussed their wishes for end-of-life care, and don’t know about different options available to them — such as hospice care or palliative care — that would allow them to die in their own homes rather than in a hospital, hooked up to machines.

With no end-of-life care plan in place, many patients get funneled onto what the doctor calls the “end-of-life conveyor belt,” in which they’re intubated, catheterized and kept alive with the aid of machinery, often unaware that they’re dying. This can cause people to undergo significant pain and suffering while unable to communicate their treatment preferences. And without a plan, the dying patient’s end-of-life care decisions are left up to the their next of kin or all too often, to doctors. (…) Read Full Publication Here

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