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Looking to the Future — Signs of Culture Change Surrounding Dying Care
Tag : Brittany Maynard

shutterstock_187897427Here’s a list offered by The Conversation Project that’s significant because it is broadcasting out there that we are working our way toward living life to its end the way we want to. But first, a statement from this great organization:

“This is not your average Buzzfeed list. No celebrities below. But nevertheless a few hats and horns are warranted because 2014 was the year when Americans finally began breaking the code of silence about end-of-life conversations. When The Conversation Project was founded, the media was full of static about “death Panels.” It was still taboo to talk about how we wanted to live at the end of life — the care we wanted, the care we didn’t want. We and many others believed it was the most important conversation America wasn’t having. It was important to change the culture, to change the cultural norm, that is, from not talking about dying to talking about it. Now, with a small ta-da, we say things are truly changing. We herby offer the Top Ten Signs of Culture Change in 2014.”

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Top 10 Signs of Culture Change in 2014

  1. The Institute of Medicine releases its report, “Dying in America,” that pushes the importance of honoring preferences on the public agenda.
  2. Atule Gawande’s book, “Being Mortal” on aging and end of life rises to bet seller list and stays there.
  3. The Conversation Project logs its 250,000 website visitor and The Conversation Starter Kit spreads from there to AARP, United Health Care, and even Consumer reports.
  4. “The Fault in Our Stars” proves that yes, you can so do a movie about dying and earns a stunning $48.2 million the first weekend.
  5. Massachusetts rules that doctors must have conversations about advance planning with terminally ill patients.
  6. More than 140 organizations in 35 states join The Conversation Project’s grassroots initiative to make their communities Conversation Ready.
  7. Roz Chast’s cartoon book asking the provocative and humorous question “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is named one of the Tip Ten Books of the year by the New York Times.
  8. Brittany Maynard’s illness and death provokes a national debate.
  9. The Writers Guilds East and West invite The Conversation Project and UCLA’s Global Media Center for Social Impact to engage screenwriters for scripts to “Die Well or Die Trying.”
  10. The American Medical Association recommends reimbursement to doctors for holding conversations.

shutterstock_172671014And I have to mention “Death over Dinner,” that’s all about change beginning at the dinner table. Check it out at wwwdeathoverdinner.org. This organization is using the dinner table to revolutionize how we discuss death.

A friend and I have and are planning dinners in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. I have to tell you that these dinners are not morbid, but empowering and challenging for those who attend. Please join us by having one as well to tell a story, have a conversation, and change the culture.

Each of us can lead by example and help each other create a most personal end-of-life journey and in this way, as The Conversation Project states, break the code of silence around end-of-life conversations. Happy New Year!

Note: The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. The Project began 2010 when Ellen Goodman (co-Founder and Director) and a group of colleagues, clergy, medical professionals, and concerned media got together to share personal stories of “good deaths” and “bad deaths.”

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Brittany Maynard, 29, who is featured everywhere (People magazine, CNN, CBS, Compassion and Choices website) shares details of her terminal brain tumor and her choice to end her life. The physician writer Atul Gawande with his latest book Being Mortal Medicine and What Matters In The End recently appeared on Jon Stewart telling us to attend to life with meaning, a life rich and full as possible under whatever the circumstances.  These are closely on the heels of books like The Cost of Hope and Knocking on Heaven’s Door and websites such as Death over Dinner and The Conversation Project.

Since it appears we are talking more about dying could it mean that this great big taboo that makes us all not be prepared for death is coming undone? Could this be the baby boomers latest and perhaps greatest cultural movement? Is Brittany Maynard’s stance on how she choices to die making us argue among ourselves about her choices AND prompting looking down our own pebbled path of wonderment to our last days?

I wonder then and of course hope that all this talk maybe is making us consider end of life isn’t about doing what you can. That we are beginning to look beyond (or get past) our fixation with medicalizing dying, refocusing on life itself and what’s been important to you and realizing whatever that is still is in the end.

Surely too part of this lifting of the taboo is recognizing that how we live well when death is close means different things to different people. There’s no wrong way to die. What’s wrong is not talking about what’s really important to you besides simply just living longer. If ever a taboo itself should be deemed improper and unacceptable to society it’s this one! I say goodbye and good riddance.

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Posted on October 23, 2014 by Diane Burnside Murdock
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