Life Matters Media
Quality of life at the end of life

Key Terms

The following terms are used frequently on this website and when discussing end of life issues. We provide to you the following definitions:

Advance Health Care Directive: An advance health care directive may take the form of a living will, power of attorney or the Five Wishes collection. The overall purpose of such forms is to ensure one’s end of life wishes are carried through in case of illness or incapacity.

“Death with Dignity”: In 1997, Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act, which allows some terminally ill patients the ability to end their lives through voluntary self-administration of legally prescribed lethal barbiturates. Numerous states have since debated similar legislation; Washington, Montana and Vermont have enacted such laws. Opponents of such measures may refer to it as “assisted suicide.”

Do-Not-Resuscitate Order: A legal order in which individuals state preferences regarding CPR or advanced cardiac life support if they were to stop breathing or suffer cardiac arrest. A DNR does not affect any other treatments.

Hospice Care: Hospice aims to provide comfort care and pain management rather than aggressive treatments- usually for terminally ill patients with six months or less to live. Hospice is most often used when curative treatments are no longer effective.

Palliative Medicine: Palliative medicine is provided to the terminally and seriously ill to help treat symptoms and side-effects of disease and aggressive treatments. The goal of palliative care is not cure, but symptom management.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare/ Medicare Expansion/ Health Reform): In 2010, President Obama signed a federal statute which requires all individuals not covered by an employer health plan, Medicaid, Medicare or other public insurance program to obtain a private health policy or pay a penalty– unless an individual is a member of a religious sect exempted by the IRS or waived because of destitution. The law allows parents to insure their children under age 26, and it requires insurance companies to cover all applicants with new minimum standards and to offer applicants similar rates- regardless of pre-existing conditions.

POLST Form (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatments): POLSTs are more detailed than conventional living wills or advance directives. They allow patients to indicate preferences regarding resuscitation, intubation, intravenous antibiotics and feeding tubes. Such forms are intended for patients in their last year of life, and they can follow patients across care settings and direct doctors to provide or withhold lifesaving treatment.

Power of Attorney: Authorization to represent another in private affairs- usually for business, financial or legal matters.

Power of Attorney for Health Care: Authorization allowing the designated attorney the power to make medical decisions for another. The attorney may make decisions about end of life care or life support.