The Journal of Clinical Ethics
How to Help Patients and Families Make Better End-of-Life Decisions
Edmund G. Howe
The Journal of Clinical Ethics 25, no. 2 (Summer 2014): 83-95.
How can clinical ethics consultants best assist patients and their family members when patients may be dying? In this introduction, I consider this concern in light of four articles that appear in this issue of The Journal of Clinical Ethics, by Jeffrey T. Berger; Mary T. White; Linying Hu, Xiuyun Yin, Xiaolei Bao, and Jin-Bao Nie; and Thaddeus Mason Pope and Melinda Hexum.
Patients and family members experience extreme stress at the end of life, a high-stakes situation in which few of us have extensive experience. This stress can make us less able to process new information, cripple decision making, and even lead to long-term harm.
I provide a number of practical approaches that clinical ethics consultants can use to help patients and family members in these situations, so that their decisions may reflect more what they really want and so that, after this stress has diminished, they may then do better.
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