December 23, 2015

Tom Brokaw and his Physician Daughter Discuss End-of-Life Planning

What someone wants at the end of life can be hard to pin down in words. Even a phrase like "no heroic measures" leaves family and physicians wondering what steps to take and when to stop, as emergency medicine physician Jennifer Brokaw pointed out to her better-known father -- longtime NBC News anchor Tom -- in their TEDx talk at Stanford University.

The video below is a few years old, but it just gets more relevant with time. Brokaw's talk with his daughter about his end-of-life wishes -- and how their family has come to believe in the importance of advance care planning -- preceded this year's bestselling book Being Mortal, in which surgeon and author Atul Gawande discusses why it's important for families to have these conversations.

As Jennifer Brokaw says, talking as a family is even more important as medicine grows increasingly specialized. "We’re not going to be talking to one physician” at the end of life, she says. “We’re going to be talking to a lot of -ologists,” who will provide more varied, fragmented prognoses on which families will base their decisions.

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