Lauren Nicholas

Lauren NicholasThere are “good deaths” and “bad deaths,” and having a living will can make the difference between the two. So wrote Ellen Goodman, author and co-founder of The Conversation Project, an effort to encourage doctors and family members to have conversations about advance directives before it’s too late. Goodman, in an April 10 post on the Health Affairs Blog describing her sister’s painful decline after developing Alzheimer’s disease, cited work by ISR researcher Lauren Nicholas and colleagues showing the importance of advance directives in making health care decisions for patients with advanced dementia. With a living will in hand, family members were more likely to be able to avoid aggressive and unnecessary efforts to prolong life beyond what the patient would have wanted, the research showed. But, Goodman, cautioned, families must have those end-of-life conversations early, even before a diagnosis, or they probably won’t happen. “You see,” she wrote, “it’s always too soon until it’s too late. Say it now. And hope that it will be respected.”