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Ethics consultants stress need to make end-of-life care decisions long before crisis hits

Robert Olick, JD, PhD and Thomas Curran, MDA hospital's ethics consultants can help families in conflict when life-and-death decisions have to be made. Such decisions, once made only by doctors, are now largely in the hands of patients. This can create problems when a patient is unable to give clear directions for treatment. Two ethics consultants at Upstate University Hospital – neonatologist Thomas Curran, MD (at right in photo), and attorney Robert Olick, JD, PhD (at left), who are both bioethics and humanities faculty members at Upstate – explain how they try to clarify and resolve the issues and offer non-binding advice. They cite a real-life case in which a woman. hospitalized with advanced lung cancer, kept changing her mind about her treatment and had days when she was too ill to communicate. Curran and Olick stress the importance of making one‘s end-of-life wishes known to others, in advance, and choosing a health care proxy who will work to carry out those wishes.