Posted by Doreen Higgins on Aug 05, 2019
Dr. Kathleen Benton is the President and CEO of a local Savannah Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. She has a doctorate in Public Health Leadership from Georgia Southern University and was for some years the Director of Ethics and Palliative Care at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital. She is the author of two books, “The Skill of End-of-Life Communication” and Daniel’s World. The former addresses end-of-life issues and the doctors whose patients are in this situation; the latter addresses acceptance of children with disabilities.
Dr. Benton talked to us about the very difficult issues surrounding the imminent death of a family member and the problems for the members of that family in figuring out what to do. A person who is in Hospice care is not expected to live and decisions must be made about treatment (or its absence) and palliative care, end-of-life management and patient wishes, and family members’ understanding of the situation. The latter is one of the more fraught areas for patients nearing the end of their lives and for the individuals who are relatives or friends; the understanding by the latter of the issues at stake is not only key but, unfortunately is often lacking. Dr. Benton gave us an example of a family with a dying member who was the parent of four adult daughters; these four had differing views of what should be done, of what the parent might want, and therefore, of how to proceed. The physicians who attended the patient had various specialties but were not in a position to help address the totality of matters to be resolved.

Dr. Benton told us that it is vital that both patients (or patients-to-be) and their families address end-of-life issues, that they have discussions about treatment or the withholding of treatment, about DNR (do-not-resuscitate), and about communicating these wishes to the organization responsible for the patient’s well being and comfort. Dr. Benton has performed these functions for patients and their families and is an advocate for the employment of such a person in the circumstances she described. The appropriate persons are not the physicians whose specialties have been necessary for past or present treatments, but someone whose expertise is in assisting in all the areas now faced. A solution for these vexing issues is for patients and families to seek the assistance of palliative physicians or persons such as herself whose job it is to ensure there is communication, understanding, and agreement among all concerned parties. Only when these needs are resolved can an impending death be faced with appropriate actions when it occurs and the family and friends left behind have no regrets as to what was done, secure in the knowledge that their deceased loved one’s wishes were totally and competently addressed.
Below is a photo of Ron Krannich and Dr. Kathleen Benton