I have been reflecting on our Afternoon Tea held last week in Honolulu. Good friends, Drs. Michael Chaffin, Geoff Galbraith and Warren Wong were terrific panelists, and addressed key questions about physician/patient and family communication. I am grateful for their openness in sharing personal stories about their own interaction with the medical care system on behalf of their families. They shared stories about their observations and interactions with their patients. They talked about how important it is to have conversations with our family/friends well in advance of a medical crisis, conversations that make clear our loved one’s goals.
I decided that I should have such a discussion with my family, so on our wedding anniversary, my husband and I discussed with our sons a variety of things they will need to know if they assume more responsibility for our care, an event that we hope will be in the distant future. We engaged in a good talk about our financial condition, our health directive, and our wishes for medical interventions that work for us. It was such a good conversation that we’ve agreed to do this every year on our wedding anniversary.
Our physician friends also answered a question about why physicians die differently than the rest of us (this was prompted by an article that is making rounds in social media; more physicians die at home than in hospitals). The answer simply is that physicians by virtue of their training and experience know the trajectory of a disease and can anticipate when further medical treatments may be futile. They know that if they are admitted to the hospital, the full force of Western medicine will be applied to them, and they may choose to simply forgo it. I asked how non-physicians like me can avail ourselves of the same understanding. They said we need to ask about the risks and benefits of a procedure for ourselves or our loved ones. They suggested that we discuss how a recommended procedure can impact the quality of our life. Finally, they reminded us that a partnership between the attending physician and the patient/patient’s family can promote a more satisfying outcome for all.
Thank you, Mike, Geoff and Warren!