Tough Discussions about Death and Dying

Image of people holding hands. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.


At some point in your life someone else may have to make decisions for you about your health care. If you have named an Agent in your Advance Health Care Directive, the person you have chosen will have the first priority for making health care decisions for you when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself. Does your Agent know your values well enough to make good decisions about your health care?

Most Advance Health Care Directives avoid including specific guidelines because we really never know what kind of decisions your Agent will have to make, nor do we know how the surrounding circumstances may affect how your Agent decides. Including a general statement of your values in your written Advance Health Care Directive will help your Agent know how to approach your health care in the same way that you would if you were able to.

We also encourage you to talk over your end-of-life wishes with your Agent before your Agent needs to make decisions for you. A simple (but difficult) conversation held early enough in your life helps to ensure that your wishes will be followed.

Topics can include how much medical intervention you desire and at what point would you want medical intervention stopped. Who do you want by your side if you are hurting, and are there people you definitely do not want with you at that time? What religious traditions do you want to follow? If your Agent oversees your care at a facility, what activities do you want your Agent to be sure to include in your routine?

If you need help figuring this out for yourself, the Go Wish Game may help you know what kinds of issues often arise in end-of-life situations, and it may help you define your wishes. You can find it here: for purchase or to play the online game for free. (We have no financial interest in the Go Wish Game.) By suggesting that you play a game to help you discuss some of the most serious issues you will ever have to face, we are in no way trying to trivialize these issues. We are simply trying to help you make a difficult discussion a little easier.


If you are ready to begin your Advance Health Care Directive, and you've chosen to make yours with us, you can click here to start your questionnaire.