Angelo Volandes is a physician and researcher at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also the founder of Advance Care Planning Decisions, a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging The Conversation through the use of videos. He lives outside Boston, Massachusetts.
There is an unspoken dark side of American medicine—keeping patients alive at all costs. Two thirds of Americans die in healthcare institutions tethered to machines and tubes, even though research indicates that most prefer to die at home in comfort, surrounded by loved ones.
The question How do you want to live? must be posed to the seriously ill because they deserve to choose. If doctors explain options—including the choice to forego countless medical interventions that are often of little benefit—then patients can tell doctors how they wish to spend the remainder of their lives.
A doctor’s heroic efforts to prolong a life can instead prolong that patient’s death, and these traumatic measures also bankrupt the healthcare system. One third of the Medicare budget is spent on the last six months of life, often on technological interventions that are not helpful and inflict more suffering.
Through the stories of six patients and six very different end-of-life experiences, Volandes explores the trajectory of events and treatments that occur with and without this essential conversation. He argues for a radical re-envisioning of the patient-doctor relationship—including videos to spark discussions—and offers ways for patients and their families to talk about this difficult issue to ensure that patients will be at the center and in charge of their medical care.
“Volandes has . . . unswerving faith in a potentially world-changing idea.” —Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic
Harvard Medical School physician Angelo Volandes offers a solution to traumatic end-of-life care: talking, medicine’s oldest and least technological tool in the proverbial black bag.