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Forum to focus on end of life

Lawrence Memorial Hospital, in partnership with Lawrence Public Library, on April 17, will host a 90-minute discussion on a topic that most people would rather not talk about: how they prefer to die.

“It’s a huge issue,” said Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, LMH community education coordinator. “We’re not here to tell people what to do; we’re here to help them make informed decisions.”

The forum, “Before You Check Out: Advanced Directives,” will begin at 7 p.m. in the library auditorium. Featured speakers:

• Linda Upstill, a member of the Lawrence chapter of the national Coalition to Honor End-of-Life Choices.

• Terry Kaiser, a nurse and a member of LMH’s palliative care team.

Pattie Johnston, the library’s outreach coordinator and a coalition member, will moderate the program, which is free and open to the public. Topics will include how to craft living wills and assign durable powers of attorney for health care decisions.

“Living wills can be as simple as writing up something that says, ‘I don’t want any heroic measures taken,’” Johnston said. “Or they can be as complicated as a five-page listing of exactly what you do or do not want, things like ‘I want to be ventilated, but I don’t want a feeding tube.’”

Johnston cautioned against assuming that living wills and durable powers for health care decisions are just for seniors. “Most parents, for example, don’t realize that if something tragic happens to their 19-year-old daughter, they won’t be able make health care decisions on her behalf if there isn’t a living will or if no one has been assigned durable powers for health care decisions.”

The forum is part of an ongoing series of discussions on end-of-life issues. Future topics are expected to include estate planning, care options, planned giving and dementia.

— Dave Ranney is a retired journalist and a member of the “Before You Check Out” program series planning committee of the Lawrence Public Library.

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