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Talking With Loved Ones About How They Want to Die

'The Conversation' author says: make sure you know what they'd prefer

By Angelo E. Volandes, MD

Among the questions that all of us, as future patients, need to consider and discuss with family, close friends and our doctors are the following:
●  What kinds of things are important to you in your life?
●  If you were not able to do the activities you enjoy, are there any medical treatments that would be too much?
●  What fears do you have about getting sick or medical care?
●  Do you have any spiritual, religious, philosophical or cultural beliefs that guide you when you make medical decisions?
●  If you had to choose between living longer or having a higher quality of life, which would you pick?
●  How important is it for you to be at home when you die?

What Is Right for You?
Some people will leave end-of-life decisions to their personal physicians and other experts, without questioning them. Some, like Lillian Badakian, will choose to pursue any possible remedy.... Others will opt for hospice care to ensure comfort, a sense of community, and access to family and friends as the end approaches. The success of this essential conversation about end-of-life care lies not in the individual path chosen but rather in the active and fully informed participation of the patient and family members. In other words, these discussions empower patients to receive whatever end-of-life medical care they wish.
The Conversation explores the lives of seven seriously ill patients who experienced very different deaths, each hinging on whether or not a doctor had a discussion with the patient before he or she could no longer make a decision.... It is my profound hope that this book galvanizes patients, families and doctors to establish a new standard of care.

Dr. Angelo E. Volandes is a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School. He is also co-founder of Advance Care Planning Decisions, a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging The Conversation through the use of videos. Visit him online at

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