A teleconference this (Wednesday) afternoon will include hundreds of healthcare workers around the state at dozens of locations. Some will be acquiring continuing-education credit, but all will be brushing up on the latest ethical and medical ideas about end-of-life issues. The national teleconference will feature educators, aging experts, and specialists in medicine and ethics. Eileen Mullan is director of the “Homeward” program at Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames, which offers help for hospice and home care. All caregivers, professionals in health care are seeking more knowledge about the ethical dilemmas around this issue, so they can help clients and also the extended families of those clients. The Ames hospital is one of the sites hosting an audience for the teleconference. The issues are important for doctors, but Mullan says that’s not the only target.She says there are many kinds of people — those who work in hospice or home care but also oncology, doctors and surgeons. “The ethical dilemmas at end of life isn’t just in hospice.” Mullan points out that at sometime in everyone’s life, they’ll confront end-of-life issues…and many will do that before their own death, as they make decisions for a loved one or even provide their care. Many who’ll attend the teleconference sites will be nursing-home workers, doctors and advocates for the dying. Mullan points out everyone has a different perspective on dying and end-of-life issues like pain control, sharing information and other tough decisions — so this will give professionals a way to teach relatives and caretakers of the dying. We have to step back and say “this person who’s dying…how do they believe?” she explains. They may not be “in synch” in the way they view life, but a caretaker can’t impose their own thoughts and beliefs on the dying person while they make decisions on their care. Mullan says those decisions are many. She says one’s the decision to have a feeding tube, but there’s also the choice to be at home, in a hospital or a hospice program when they die. Some want to feel no pain, even if that means drugs that keep them unconscious, another patient may want to be alert and forgo drugs. Those are personal decisions, and the teleconference will help those who advise caregivers explain how to separate what you may want from what the patient wants, and see that it’s done. It’s helping professionals apply ethical principles to real-life scenarios, she explains. “There is a science to this.” The national teleconference by the Hospice Foundation of America will take place from 12:30 till 3 P.M. Central Daylight time. More than 30 registered sites around Iowa include many community colleges and hospitals.
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