Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey, Football, and End-of-Life Desires

Death2The following excerpts are from Kay Lazar, Talking turkey about death, Boston Globe, Nov. 26, 2008:

Dying wishes are hardly traditional Thanksgiving conversation fare. But [the sister-in-law of a person whose desires were not expressed] with the backing of some leading Massachusetts healthcare executives, is determined to put end-of-life questions on the holiday agenda.

Today they are launching a "blog rally" aimed at getting families to talk about death during the holiday gathering. It's an unusual Internet collaboration extending to independent bloggers across the country, who all plan to feature identical postings about the project over the holiday weekend. The word spread quickly through the blogging world over the last few days, in preparation for today's posts.

Now comes the question of whether families will show similar openness to the topic during their Thanksgiving conversations.

Thanksgiving is, of course, a holiday rooted in family connection; it may be hard to imagine bringing up the issue of death as the turkey is passed. And in some families, straying into controversial territory comes with a risk of dredging up strong emotions.

"Although it can be uncomfortable to discuss this topic over the dinner table when posed as a hypothetical, this discomfort pales in comparison to the anguish families go through when they have to grapple with the realities of end-of-life decision-making," said Ronald Kessler, a sociologist at Harvard Medical School. "As a result, the discomfort is likely to be a price well paid." * * *

Surveys indicate most Americans are squeamish about confronting their mortality. A 2005 poll of Massachusetts residents age 35 and older found that only about half had communicated their end-of-life wishes with a spouse or partner. Only 37 percent of those surveyed had completed a healthcare proxy designating an end-of-life decision-maker.

Special thanks to Andrew D. Rothstein (Goulston & Storrs, Boston, MA) for bringing this article to my attention.


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