Patient Referral

Self-Determination: 5 Things People Want When They Die

crossroads hospice self determination

One of the many misconceptions about hospice is the idea that accepting it is like some sort of submission to power or control.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Quite frankly, we see an acceptance of hospice care as a reclamation of power and control.  The power to do things on your own terms.  The power to take the control of your situation back.

The main focus of hospice and palliative care is that healthcare should be performed FOR someone not TO someone.  In this instance, a physician is finally treating the person and not the disease.

In doing so—treating the patient as a person rather than a disease—we find that there are typically five things that people want when they die:


  1. To let the people they love know that they love them


  1. To know that they will be remembered and that their life mattered


  1. That all they learned through their life can be passed down


  1. To not be a burden, financially or emotionally


  1. Not be in pain or suffering


One particular area in which this would raise an interesting question about the importance of self-determination would be in the case of the ethical controversy over the piece of legislation passed to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives.

Hospice, Crossroads Hospice specifically, through our journaling can answer or assist with all five of the things mentioned above—and if this is true, my question is this: “why would suicide ever be a better option?

While that inquiry stands valid, I have always held the belief that any patient and physician who have derived that this course of treatment is the “best” option for the patient are in fact meeting one of the most important goals of hospice care: self-determination.

We are treating the patients and what is best for them—not the disease.

As hospice providers, one question we always find ourselves answering about palliative care specifically is: “what if they get better?

We all know the untrue stigma of hospice being lost hope, or “giving up on a loved one” and while we can successfully defend those arguments and misinformed statements, the questions may still remain with the patient's loved ones.

Yet as a caregiver, if each of these five wishes above can be met, then what we have is an excellent opportunity to take the fear away and mend those feelings of loss and desperation, rather than to exacerbate them.

As a believer in self-determination, I would never stand in the way of a patient making his or her own decision or any law that would allow them to do so.  All I would do is ask the following:

Can I be in that room when you are making that decision?

undefined Perry Farmer
 Crossroads Hospice
 Founder & CEO





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Copyright © 2016 Crossroads Hospice. All rights reserved.

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