MADISON (WKOW) -- Doctors take an oath to protect life, but they are also going to start talking to patients more about planning for death.
"The Wisconsin Medical Society is going to be the convener, coordinator and catalyst with the medical community and the community at large so they'll be more comfortable with having conversations about the end of life," says John Maycroft, a policy analyst with the Wisconsin Medical Society.
The Honoring Choices Wisconsin initiative has eight health care systems participating in a pilot program.
Training started in September so when a patient goes to the doctor and says they haven't had conversations about the care they'd want if they couldn't make the decisions themselves, trained professionals will follow up.
"We need to make sure that conversation is scheduled, had and documented so it can be brought into medical records so it can be located when a person is in that situation," Maycroft says.
"I think normalizing the conversation is really important because historically we don't have the conversation until we're in the hospital and we're in crisis," says Dr. Bruce Agneberg, vice president of medical services at Agrace HospiceCare.
"I often go back to a conversation my parents had during my first year of medical school. My mother was 46 years old, and they talked about what they wanted."
Agneberg says his mother died of a cerebral aneurysm the next year.
"We were able to respect what my mother wanted. And, as hard as that was, we could move on as a family knowing we had done the right thing."
Agneberg says the talk doesn't need to be morbid or depressing.
"You want to talk about how you want to live your life, how you want your life to unfold. How do you want to see those days that are yours being lived to their max?"
Once staff is trained, the pilots are expected to launch in March 2013, and the medical society hopes it will eventually expand statewide.
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