A health care policy that puts the ending first
TORRANCE, Calif.—Rod Hochman vividly remembers watching his father
die the wrong way, laid out by a stroke at age 78, hooked up to a ventilator
and an intravenous drip in an ICU, his last hours spent in a hospital.
It was the most aggressive care modern medicine could offer, and the family
later came to understand that it was unlikely to save him. It was not
how he wanted to end his days.
Millions of Americans have endured similar experiences, but Hochman is
in a rare position to do something about it. He’s a doctor and CEO
of Providence St Joseph health care system, one of the largest nonprofit
health systems in the country.
Over the past year, his 51-hospital chain has undertaken a systematic effort
to get every single patient age 65 and older—in other words, every
Medicare patient, as well as younger people with serious diseases like
cancer—to lay out and document their wishes for end-of-life care,
and to designate someone to make decisions on their behalf if they can
no longer speak for themselves.