The nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices has made great strides over the past few years to make medical aid in dying available to mentally capable, terminally ill patients in the U.S. Barbara Coombs Lee, the president of Compassion & Choices, just announced a new initiative: Truth in Treatment™.
Compassion & Choices is igniting a social movement to end an epidemic of over-treatment at the end of life. Truth in Treatment™ will help people with advanced illnesses maintain control of their healthcare.
In a recent email, Coombs Lee wrote:
I always feel honored when a supporter shares how they lived their life — talks about their family, their hopes and what they are most proud of.
But one thing that’s troubled me for some time is hearing what happens when an illness progresses in spite of treatment and treatments become less and less effective. Often people submit to unwanted tests, treatments and even hospitalizations without fully understanding the benefits and burdens of such care.
Americans have lost control of our healthcare destiny and we as individuals often lose control of our time and energies as illness advances and the end of life comes into view. We have accepted diminished standing in the patient/doctor relationship. We keep silent about our hopes, worries, and questions.
Far too often, without even realizing it, our medical decisions are made for us. Our healthcare system often puts us on a conveyor belt that ignores our priorities and prescribes procedures that cause needless pain and suffering — even after these procedures no longer provide a path back to health or even extend life.
No one asks, “What is most important to you, now, in the precious months remaining in this precious life?” Too often we “medicalize” our life when we would rather humanize it.
That is why today I am proud to announce a transformative new initiative shaped by Compassion & Choices supporters: Truth in Treatment™.
This initiative will empower millions of Americans who are not being heard by our healthcare system. It seeks nothing less than to shift fundamental attitudes and restore a vision of patients as authorities on their own values and preferences. It will reframe the patient/doctor relationship so doctors can turn those preferences into realities. It will build a habit of asking questions and considering treatment alternatives, long before any illness becomes life-limiting.
Truth in Treatment™ is a long-term, consumer-driven movement to achieve lasting change. It has the potential to benefit hundreds of millions of lives and move mountains of entrenched behaviors and attitudes. This is social change, and we intend to do it just as we’ve done with the very concept of medical aid in dying over decades of strategic and passionate advocacy.
With supportive tools and guidance, Truth in Treatment™ will help people build trusting, candid relationships with their doctors, ask discerning questions and use the answers to make fully informed treatment decisions. As more people initiate conversations with their doctors and make informed treatment choices in line with their values and priorities, it will become the norm, rather than the exception, that individual patients decide how much medical treatment to accept and what to decline.
And it all starts with you. The most potent agents of change are individuals, each expecting to be informed about treatment alternatives, and prepared to decide what medical care is right for them, right now and later, in the setting of serious and progressing illness.
Check out the Truth in Treatment website, and let your wishes be known!