It’s clear that the medical system cannot adequately educate its charges. Patient activists/advocates know that an informed citizenry is required to materially improve medicine. Our participation is all the more requisite around end of life because in order to actualize peaceful dying we must each own our own death, just like women a generation ago decided to own childbirth. The Communication Algorithms I called for in Notes from the Waiting Room I named to convey to providers that they are smart enough to do what must be done: initiate the talk, because they know more than lay people. The flip side of this coin, alas, is that it’s terribly unfair of lay people to lean on providers for this because in so doing we are attempting to offload our own responsibility onto people who are already overburdened by their calling, obligations, and a system turned greedy in a society inclined to turn mean.
So, what’s preventing every nursing school and teaching hospital in the nation from putting out a call for dying citizens who might be interested in doing the same as Martha Keochareon, a nurse who offered her dying self up to several nursing students for profound and unique engagement and learning? Think of the huge wins and the millions of instances of lessened extrinsic pain for the dying and their families.
Somebody suggest a name for such a program and maybe I’ll try to instigate one here in Colorado. I bet the dying will come to life.