Monday Medical: Program to discuss end-of-life |

Monday Medical: Program to discuss end-of-life

Rosie Kern / For the Steamboat Today

This past spring, Jodi Dorris went through an event we all dread. She lost her father, Joe Lacko, to a chronic illness. Despite the very difficult circumstances, Jodi felt comforted by the fact that her father had made his end-of-life wishes known.

"As a result of a health condition, my father had completed an advanced medical directive 10 to 15 years ago," Dorris said.

A Steamboat Springs resident for many years, Dorris described how important the medical directive documents were for her family. "He made sure to be thorough, about what he wanted to happen and what he didn't want to happen at the end of his life. That was extremely helpful for our family," Dorris said.

Dorris also stated how important it was for the family to openly discuss his wishes in advance. "I have two sisters, so it was very necessary for all of us to have the same understanding during those final critical days. It would have been a huge burden on the family if we had not known what he wanted done," Dorris said.

Discussing end-of-life care is not easy, but Dr. Charles Hamlin thinks it is critical for families to talk about.

Dr. Hamlin will address this topic at Yampa Valley Medical Center on Tuesday. The "Taking Care of Me" program is titled "Mortality, Morality & Honor: The End-Of-Life Paradigm." This free program is at 6 p.m. in YVMC's Conference Room 1.

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Dr. Hamlin is especially qualified to address this topic. He is a national board member of Compassion and Choices, an organization whose mission is to support, educate and advocate for choice at the end of life. A retired hand surgeon, he practiced medicine in Steamboat Springs for more than a decade. A fellow in the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Dr. Hamlin received their Humanitarian Award in 2001.

This informative evening will blend philosophy, facts and humor to provide insight into how our attitudes about death have been shaped by history, religion and law.

At the conclusion of Dr. Hamlin's talk, members of YVMC's Ethics Committee will be present to provide information about advance directives.

Because life is unpredictable, every adult should have his or her advance directive documents in order. These legal documents help the designated agent to represent the person's wishes, should he or she be unable to speak for him or herself.

Advance directives include:

■ A living will. This written, legal document spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don't want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube feeding or resuscitation.

■ Medical or health care power of attorney. The medical POA is a legal document that designates an individual — referred to as your health care agent or proxy — to make medical decisions for you in the event that you're unable to do so.

■ Do not resuscitate order. This is a request to not have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.

If you haven't yet put your care wishes in writing, or if you want information that will help you discuss this complex topic with family and friends, please plan to attend this informative event.

Dorris is thankful for her father's advance planning.

"We plan for so many things in life — for weddings, for celebrations, for graduations — but we don't plan for this," Dorris said. "Although it is uncomfortable, it is very necessary. In the long run, it is better for everyone if your loved one's wishes are understood."

Rosie Kern is the communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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