A Newton, Massachusetts, doctor is engaged in a new project: making a film to help families understand options for patients with dementia. While this not necessarily a new topic, this doctor felt it was important for families to understand dialogue with each other, the terminal patient and doctors in order to avoid the problems caused by misdiagnosis and failure to communicate.

While the subject of a dignified death has been discussed in many formats, the new film explores the problems associated with dementia patients in particular and outlines options for family members when a loved one receives this diagnosis. Particularly, the doctor hopes that his film will point out the amount of unwanted care and intervention that is given to patients every day in hospitals and amounts to what could be considered malpractice if patients and family members were aware of the needlessness and ineffectiveness of these treatments.

The film may point out some grim realities about end-of-life care. American doctors are trained to prolong life, not to have what the film refers to as “The Conversation” with patients and their families. The Conversation is essentially a dialogue that is honest about the effects of prolonged care such as feeding tubes or life support. If families and patients realized the implications of these treatments, the filmmaker claims, many would choose “comfort care” rather than life-prolonging medical interventions.

Making end-of-life decisions is difficult under any circumstances, but it is impossible if families and patients do not have proper information. Patients must be proactive in making their wishes known and in discussing end-of-life issues with their physicians and families. Some patients or families may also benefit from the help of a medical malpractice attorney in handling legal issues involving healthcare providers.

Source: The Atlantic, “How not to die,” Jonathan Rauch, April 24, 2013