Preparing for a Better End – Q&A with authors Dan Morhaim, MD and Shelley Morhaim

Why did you write Preparing for a Better End: Expert Lessons on Death and Dying for You and Your Loved Ones?

People need a simple, yet comprehensive guide to managing advance care planning, and this need has been heightened by the impact of the pandemic. Preparing for a Better End emphasizes the practical aspects and focuses on empowerment, respect for personal values, compassion, and support. The book is based on my perspective as an ER doctor, state legislator, academic, and public health advocate, as well as from personal experience. In the past, we could get helpful clinical and personal information and direction from family members at the bedside. It's more important now than ever that people take the steps described in the book because family members are not present due to pandemic precautions.

What was the most surprising thing you learned through your writing or research?

People want to talk about the issues of end-of-life care but are understandably uncomfortable with that topic. However, once the conversation starts, it opens up a range of issues, and people begin to feel comfortable. They often then look back and wonder why they didn’t approach this sooner.

What is new about this book that sets it apart from other books in the field?

My motivation for writing the book was my experience as an ER doctor. Seeing what happens to patients who do not have advance directives was disturbing. Too often the medical team was delivering care that wasn’t what the patient needed or likely wanted. But without knowing the patient’s wishes, we were obligated to do the full-court press of medical interventions. I witnessed families torn by the uncertainty of what their loved ones wanted. Modern medicine has so much to offer and is in large part responsible for our longer and healthier life spans. I wanted to show readers how they can take advantage of modern medicine while retaining their autonomy and values. A “good death” – one without pain and where we are surrounded by our loved ones in the setting of our choosing - is what we all desire. Preparing for a Better End is a handbook for achieving those goals. It offers information and advice to help people make decisions consistent with their values and personal situations.

The book has been endorsed by a diverse group of distinguished people from the medical, political, legal, business, and faith-based communities.



What is the most important fact that Preparing for a Better End helps to reveal?

We are the first generation in human history that can have some say over how, where, and when we die. We can’t change the ultimate outcome, but we can shift the likelihood from a series of discomforting events over which we have no control to ones where we do. That’s a powerful concept and helps reduce the anxiety we all face. Further, it helps close the arc of life that transforms our fears into a meaningful and healing experience. The benefits of this accrue to individuals, families, and society.

How do you envision the lasting impact of your book?

All the above is made possible by the completion of free, legal, readily available forms called advance directives. Unfortunately, only about 40% of Americans have completed these, and the rate is half that in minority populations. My goal is to have everyone complete these forms, reflecting their own values, as part of normal and responsible actions that every adult should take. Advance directives can be updated anytime as one’s health, situation, relationships, and perspectives change over the course of a lifetime.

What do you hope people will take away from Preparing for a Better End?

I hope that people will overcome their reluctance to talk about these universal issues and discover that spending some time in contemplation, along with the completion of documents, is worthwhile. Once done, they will feel a sense of relief and calm that wasn’t there before. Planning ahead makes a difference for many things, and in this case, it’s for something that is certain to happen. So why not take advantage of the tools that are available to us and prepare for a better end?

Order Preparing for a Better End: Expert Lessons on Death and Dying for You and Your Loved Ones – published on November 17, 2020 – at the following link: https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/title/preparing-better-end

Dan Morhaim, MD is an emergency medicine physician with more than 40 years of front-line clinical experience. He served for 24 years as a Maryland state legislator. Shelley Morhaim, the screenwriter and director of the documentary film The Next Industrial Revolution, is a therapeutic music practitioner for hospice and hospital patients. Together, they are the authors of Preparing for a Better End: Expert Lessons on Death and Dying for You and Your Loved Ones.

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