A Program Named Closure

For most of us death is not an easy subject and when it is related to a diagnosis of terminal illness, it is even more so. Patients don’t want to hear that they’re dying, and doctors either don’t know how or don’t want to tell them they are. The issues surrounding death and dying have been inadequately addressed for generations and decades ago Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became famous for trying to remedy their long-time neglect. Now the American Society of Clinical Oncology has issued a booklet giving guidance on how physicians can discuss with patients the choices before them, such as comfort care, or the fact that further chemo has become futile. The booklet’s ideas are beginning to be used, for example in a program called Closure. Created by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, it teaches families how to talk to each other and with their doctors about what they want or don’t in their final days. It has been so successful that although it started in one hospital in Pittsburgh it has spread to several.
Because death and dying are the subject of so many of ours fears and misunderstandings, any effort that weakens them needs to be both hailed and heeded.