April 7th, 2011
08:46 AM ET

TEDMED: 'Grace' at the end of life

"Death just wasn’t something you talked about in our family," says Alexandra Drane, co-founder of the nonprofit Engage With Grace. Her organization encourages end-of-life conversations, offering a practical guide to addressing tough issues within families. In the video above, Drane, speaking at TEDMED 2010, tells the tear-jerking story of her sister-in-law Rosaria's final days.

Drane is an entrepreneur who's had a hand in many different kinds of projects. She's also the founder and president of Eliza Corporation, a healthcare communications company.

Asking your loved ones about what they want at the end of life is a difficult prospect, but in Drane's view these conversations are essential. Large family gatherings, including Thanksgiving, can provide good opportunities. She spoke to CNN about how to approach the topic:

TEDMED is an annual event that brings together dozens of luminaries from a variety of fields to "demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and health care related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital." TEDMED 2010 took place from October 26 to 29 in San Diego, California.

soundoff (21 Responses)

    While watching the republicans in Congress trying to pass laws to keep Terri Schaivo alive and being scared of the government deciding her fate, my Mother and I spoke of everything we wanted done at the end of our lives. She answered all my questions and I answered hers. She fell ill shortly after that and I felt really good knowing I could tell the doctors not to resuscitate, no stomach tube and no more drawing blood. Make her comfortable and keep her painless. Would you believe the doctors were wheeling her out to place the feeding tube as I arrived on the morning she passed? I let them have it and told them to do as she wanted. I wanted no Terry Shiavo drama. They can keep Barbara Bush alive till the year 2020 if they so wish, but not my mother!

    April 7, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rosa

      I could not agree more. My last moments spent with both of my parents as they passed: one 2 years ago and the other recently, are moments I treasure. To be with them as they passed with grace and dignity was an honor. We (the family) did, however, have to be firm with our instructions to the doctors and nurses. If we had not been there, who knows what would have happened to our parents.

      April 7, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  2. KinNYC

    Couldn't agree more. This is what the anti-Obama care folks called death consuls. Hello???? So glad this was in place for my mother. I've got to get on it for myself. Downloaded the slide. . .

    April 7, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Julie

    This is what the anti-Obama care folks called death consuls? Where in the world did you get that? I too do not want to be artificially kept alive but what I think about the Obama deal is I also don't need a stranger telling me what is best for me or making me or my family feel guilty if I wanted to stay alive either. That is just lame and incorrect deary

    April 7, 2011 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BioHzrd420

      They are refering to the "death panels". Obama wanted to promote these types of discussions and made allowances for them in the healthcare bill. Is there something wrong with discussing these treatments and your end-of-life care with people who deal with end-of-life everyday as well as your family? It's about making your wishes known. There is no stranger making these decisions for you, only you.

      April 7, 2011 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
    • sara

      Nowhere in the law is there a provision for making anyone feel guilty for wanting to stay alive. Nothing. Nada. That could not be further from the truth. What is in the law is the ability for patients' physicians to have an end-of-life discussion with their patients so that they can be more fully informed about what to expect when that time comes. My father's doctors wanted him to travel 80 miles to be seen by a radiation therapist just days before he died. Had I not been in the profession I was in I would have acquiesced to their wishes, but as I knew he had stage IV lung cancer, could not eat, walk, and barely talked, and that I could cancel the appointment and tell them with a clear head and heart that was not in my father's best interests. No one met with the family to tell them this, and had they been required or encouraged to do so, the entire decision would not have been left to me. The only consult I had with a medical professional was my neice, who agreed with me wholeheartedly that comfort measures were the best option. The whole "Bad Obamacare" mantra is just a series of fairy tales.

      April 7, 2011 at 23:12 | Report abuse |
  4. Jim "Zig" Zeigler Jr.

    Families are already free to have all the converstations they want during life about the end of life. Somehow, a large number of people think that the government also needs to pay professionals to facilitate these conversations. BAD IDEA. The conversations about death will go BETTER without the government-paid professionals involved. Why do we need the government to pay for this and for other things that each individual and each family can do on their own? Typical pro-government bias. STOP this foolishness. Let each individual and each family facilitate their own conversations about end of life. Zig

    April 8, 2011 at 05:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kirstyloo

      The goal was to allow physicians to bill for the time spent having these conversations not to mandate them. Phyisicans bill for other conversations regarding medical management and the like. Having your Dr on board with your end-of-life goals is very important, and personally, I'd like my Dr to act as an advocate on my behalf as she knows the system better than I do. The goal wasn't to make patients sign papers to refuse care. People need to get the facts and understand them.

      April 8, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse |
  5. Linda Laski

    You still don't get it. Doctors will NOT have the 20-30 minute conversation about end of life issues if they can't bill for it. Obamacare will pay the docs for doing the right, moral, and humane thing. It also will deprive the hospitals of those super expensive pointless death prolonging procedures they will gladly do now if an informed patient doesn't want them. The insurance industry will pay for these & your insurance will continue to be unaffordable.

    April 8, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim "Zig" Zeigler Jr

      I regret that lots of folks cannot post their thoughts without attacks like "you still don't get it." Can't you articulate without attacking? The DOCTORS do not need to have this conversation. The patients and families do. Doctors are terrible at this kind of thing and generally dislike it. This is a job for families, secular counselors and faith counselors. No government money needed. Period.

      April 8, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
    • kirstyloo

      Actually, doctors need to be part of the conversation...because they're the ones who actually will need to make it happen. In addition, many families lack the knowledge as to what types of questions could be/should be discussed. A Dr could facilitate this discussion and make sure that people are on the same page...before the unthinkable happens.

      April 8, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
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