How does your story end? 6 considerations toward the end of life
BY AMBER SMITH
Gregory Eastwood, MD, is a physician and ethicist who served for many years as president of Upstate Medical University.
In his new book, “Finishing Our Story: Preparing for the End of Life,” he discusses the dying process, how the quality of life may influence a person’s death, physician-assisted death, palliative care and the importance of making one’s wishes known.
“Each of us will confront our own mortality someday, if we haven’t already,” he says.
Aside from practical advice, such as the selection of a health care proxy, Eastwood’s book also offers guidance in making the end of life more fulfilling.
- Reflect on what quality of life means to you and how much importance it has compared to biological life. In other words, would you want everything to be done to keep you alive if your quality of life would be greatly diminished? Do you want your life extended at all costs — financial, social and emotional?
- Think about what could happen to you in different health and social circumstances, and talk about that with loved ones. If you have a chronic disorder, such as diabetes or heart trouble, anticipate the types of decisions you may face in the future. Would you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops? Are you OK with having a breathing tube in your trachea? What about intravenous fluids and a feeding tube? Would you want to remain in the hospital or go home?
- “Bear in mind that some of the characters who populated the earlier chapters of your story are likely to reappear in the last chapter,” Eastwood writes. “What are the implications of that to you?
- Do you have any emotional debts to pay, someone to whom you need to apologize or explain an earlier behavior?
- If you are nostalgic, you may want to reinforce memories by revisiting places that have meaning to you, reconnecting with friends or reliving certain experiences.
- You may find yourself thinking more about the legacy you will leave. While you cannot change facts or experiences, you may find opportunities to renew context or derive different meanings so that you conclude your story in a way that satisfies you.
The book may be purchased at local bookstores or online through Barnes & Noble, Amazon or the Oxford University Press.
Click here for a "HealthLink on Air" interview with Gregory Eastwood, MD, about end-of-life issues.
This article appears in the summer 2019 issue of Upstate Health magazine.