Thursday, December 29, 2011

Death Doula

Doula -- it is a new age word to some, common to others.  I first heard of a doula when I was expecting my first child.  I even hired one with hopes that she would serve as a coach to my husband during the birth.  Our son had other plans -- he was breach and a c-section was needed.  Only one person could be with me in the OR, and that was my husband.  Our doula did assist in the few weeks after our son's birth, and was quite helpful.

Up until this week I assumed that a doula was associated with the beginning of life, not the end.  Then I saw a Facebook post sharing an article for the LA Times.  Death Doula: A midwife for the end of life.  As I read the article it did seem natural to have an advocate assist as one's life draws to an end.  I see the family strife all the time.  A neutral party can be very helpful.  From navigating the health care system, to coordinating family visits, to making final arrangements.

However, I would urge people NOT to plan to wait on completing essential estate planning documents until they have a death doula at their side.  Why?  Unlike birth, not all deaths are easily forecast.  If you are in your 80s or 90s or have a terminal illness, a death doula could assist in making sure you complete necessary paperwork and help with the end of life process.  Sadly, there is not always time to contact a death doula.  Heart attacks, stroke, car accidents, and countless other ways can end a life, any life, no matter the age, instantly.

The death doula is correct, put your wishes in writing.  I highly urge people to work with an estate planning attorney licensed in his or her state.  Medical professionals can point you in the right direction, but only a lawyer can give you sound legal advice.

Photo Credit: - free image

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