Guide When the time comes, how will you decide?

Educational Resources for Patients and Families

People with advanced illness may pursue aggressive treatments in the hope of finding a cure. Explore ways to assess the risks and benefits of treatment options.

Learn the importance of advance care planning when facing a serious illness and how to find the help you need to get the kind of care you want.

The time near the end of life can be full of uncertainty and unexpected challenges. Learn how to discuss your changing care preferences.

Learn about the various types of life-support options and their benefits and risks for people with life-limiting illnesses.

You may reach a point where curative treatments are no longer possible. Explore how hospice and other care options can support your dying.

The New Dilemmas of Modern Medicine

The time near death is complex and emotional. Modern medical technologies give us choices never before available to us. Where people once died quickly from illness or injuries sustained in accidents, we can now live for many years with an eventually fatal illness. Along the way, we will have to make decisions and plans that affect not only how we live, but how we will die. No matter what stage of life you are in, learning more about the end of life can help you -- and your family -- care for one another, shape the kind of health care and treatment you want, and help you live well until the very end.

FRONTLINE developed these educational resources to help patients and families navigate the key end-of-life issues discussed in the documentary Facing Death. Each of the five cases presented here examines different aspects of the complicated decisions that critically ill patients and their families face at the end of life -- deciding when to remove a breathing tube; when to continue treatment for an aggressive cancer; and when to call for palliative care or choose a hospice.

Each family faces tough decisions. By understanding your choices and their consequences, you can shape the care and treatment you receive. This guide provides an overview of the issues, features expert advice and recommendations, and offers a wealth of links to important and useful sources. You can use them, whether you are healthy or not, to understand more about what it means to be facing death in our society.


This resource was developed to help patients and families find information and resources for understanding and navigating the complex issues that accompany living with an advanced illness. Patients and practitioners will find it useful for education, counseling and guidance. It was developed for FRONTLINE by Sandy St. Louis, graduate student, Carnegie Mellon University, H. John Heinz III College School of Public Policy and Management. It was written by Janice Lynch Schuster, senior writer, Altarum Institute, and writer on Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness by Drs. Joanne Lynn and Joan K. Harrold. The advisers on this resource are Joanne Lynn, M.D., a palliative care physician providing consultation on quality improvement and public policy, and Stephen Connor, Ph.D., the senior executive for the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance.


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posted november 10, 2010

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