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Plan for Death, Health Center Advises People

People plan various phases of their life like education, marriage, job prospects and retirement, but health officials say that they do not plan for the most important thing - death. Dr. Anne Simpson, //the director of Ethics Institute for the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center wants people to finally think about this aspect as well.

"We're all going to die. But we do not address it. It just amazes me," she said. The Institute has a biomedical ethics committee of doctors, nurses, clergy and others to help families and patients decide about end of life decisions. The Terry Schiavo case has brought spotlight on who exactly takes decisions when family members of the person who cannot do so are divided on the issue. Schiavo spent 15 years in a vegetative or a coma state and finally died last March, two weeks after her feeding tube was removed. Her husband had contended that she no longer wanted to live, while her parents had sought the court's opinion on the issue. That case brought biomedical ethics to the forefront of medicine and Simpson's institute hopes to advise people on some of these questions. "It is to get people to think about these things, to get people to talk about them," she said. "And is it fair, truly, to ask someone else to make decisions for you when they don't know what you would want?" Simpson describes resuscitation or feeding tubes to her patients in quite graphic detail. She says she wants the people to realize what they are letting themselves in for. "Because you don't just fill out the paper, you talk with people about it. Some of our ethics consultations have involved people who may have a written directive but they didn't discuss it. And the family said, 'I just can't believe that she actually signed it. She never said a word about it and now I just don't know.' ... They want to honor the wishes but it's new to them," she points out. Simpson says that she talked to her daughters about death and feels that it was like an adventure. "If you have a clue as to what the other person would want, it would make it a lot easier," she observes.

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