Bio-Medical Ethics and End-of-Life Discussions

As a result of advances in medicine, patients with chronic illnesses are living longer than ever before, yet the expectations that patients and families have regarding treatment options and outcomes can differ from those of the health care providers who manage their care, often resulting in strained discussions between all involved. The Health Law Center has the expertise to assist patients, families, physicians, hospital staff, and others with constructive communication when medical treatment options and outcomes may be limited.

Drawing from her extensive background in nursing, the practice of law, and formal and informal mediation processes, Donna J. Craig, R.N., J.D. regularly facilitates these kinds of difficult conversations, encouraging everyone to “hear” each other, particularly when trying medical treatment discussions need to be made. She helps the respective parties address and overcome ethical dilemmas and achieve common understanding of medical treatment decisions and End-of-Life directives in the following ways:


Best Practices for Health Care Providers –

Although doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals deal with life and death situations on a daily basis, it is sometimes challenging for them to sit down with patients and families to discuss their wishes relative to managing terminal illness. Proper handling of such difficult exchanges has not traditionally been taught in medical, nursing, social work, and other health care training programs; Ms. Craig supports physicians and other health care professionals by assisting them in developing useful protocols and best practices by acknowledging their perspectives and positions then moving them towards a less anxious approach to addressing patients’ treatment options.


Improved Communication Between Health Professionals, Patients, and Families –

We all know we will not live forever, but when a patient’s life nears its end, neither he nor she nor the family may be capable of processing that fact. Using her mediator skills, Ms. Craig works with health professionals, patients, and families to give everyone a voice while empowering the patient with control over the care to be rendered in the final days. While specific medical treatment options may not be effective, patients and families need to know that treatment will continue nonetheless, with the focus on ensuring patients’ comfort and appropriate care, and letting them die with dignity.


Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care –

The thought of dealing with one’s mortality can be an overwhelming proposition, made worse by unfamiliarity with medical terms and technology. For example, misconceptions about ventilators are surprisingly common, and many people don’t understand that being placed on a ventilator can be a treatment option, and not necessarily an End-of-Life event. Ms. Craig utilizes her nursing and legal experience to dispel the confusion, assisting individuals to implement Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care that clearly expresses their wishes in the event they cannot participate in medical treatment decisions. Ms. Craig has developed a workbook that defines common medical terms and provides thought-provoking scenarios to assist individuals in taking control and defining the scope of their desired medical treatment in those situations. The workbook helps people cope with overwhelming feelings by providing information that enables them to make informed decisions.


If you have any questions regarding how to approach difficult medical discussions – as a patient or a health care provider – or would like to know more about the advantages and peace of mind that a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can provide, please contact Donna J. Craig, RN, JD at