How to Talk to Parents About Their End-of-Life Wishes

Ellen Goodman started The Conservation Project to help families with end-of-life discussions.

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When asked, people often say they have very specific thoughts about the kind of medical care they'd like if they became very ill and unable to make their own health care decisions. Children agree they should talk to their aging parents about such matters and execute health care proxies, advanced medical directives and other documents to make sure their parents' wishes are carried out. But the conversations between children and older parents, or among other family members, can be emotionally draining and difficult. And they often don't take place.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman co-founded The Conversation Project to help families have these important end-of-life discussions. She shared her compelling reasons for helping start the group and how important it is for all family members to sit down and talk. Harvey Freishtat, a director of The Conversation Project, and Ira Byock, a palliative care physician and director of palliative medicine at the Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, joined the conversation with U.S. News.