by Wendy J. Meyeroff
What’s the best way for health leaders to stay forever current in changes and advances in healthcare? Work in the emergency areas of hospitals. it “keeps you in touch with what’s happening in the real world, right then and there,” said Dan Morhaim, MD when he spoke to a group of older Baltimoreans this Spring. Morhaim is a 35-year veteran of being an emergency physician, who’s also trained in internal med.
When I met Morhaim at that event he provided so many keen insights that my notes turned into a two-parter. Check Part 1 posted here on my blog that gave seniors insights on avoiding the ED, even with genetic tendencies to areas like high blood pressure.
Now read on about the two issues you see in the headline.
Reviewing the cannabis question
Morhaim also spent 20+ years as Deputy Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates. One of the key issues he addressed--from both a medical and legal perspective--was the legalization of marijuana sales.
“Most medicines come from plants, like quinine and aspirin,” Morhaim reminded us. Today some people--including some doctors--now swear marijuana and its other cannabis chemicals are wellness tools.
“Is cannabis ideal? No...but it should be explored like any other plant,” he said. Of course he issued warnings about use. First, always make sure to get a doctor’s approval (and your advisor should be someone who’s truly explored this plant’s benefits). Second, don’t drive or perform any other dangerous tasks until you’re acclimated, just like with any other medications.
Being ready for death
You would think an ED doc would stress we must always live. Of course Morhaim fought to keep patients alive whenever it was it truly an option.
But what might surprise many is he admitted that he is an ardent believer in a graceful end of life.
So much so, that Morhaim brought his book with him: “The Better End.” Its subtitle tells a lot: “Surviving (and Dying) on Your Own Terms in Today’s Modern Medical World.”
When it was published in 2012, it had this praise right on the front cover: “In The Better End, Dr. Morhaim helps the reader to see that while death does have its sting, it need not be bitter, and each of us can prepare for the end in better ways.” The reviewer? Maya Angelou.
“It’s about when the end of life is going to come. I went to medical school. I believe it’s going to come for all of us,” he said, again only half-jokingly. To ensure that we die when we want (whenever that’s possible), he reminded us about having three documents bundled under one title: advanced directives. Specifically they’re our living will, medical power of attorney, and after-death instructions.
None of these are fun or easy to discuss, but they must be. If you have no way to leave instructions to children or a life partner, make sure you find someone. Maybe you have a dear cousin or a lifelong friend you know you can trust. If not, leave extra copies of the documents with a legal rep. (Make sure your originals are someplace safe.)
In his book, Morhaim notes that the advanced directives are available free through each state’s Office of Attorney General (OAG). Sure enough, at the Maryland OAG site I found a packet I can download that’s fairly easy to read. Those without easy computer access can always just call Information and ask for their OAG office.
The best conclusion to offer is perhaps these words that appear early in Morhaim’s book:
“...I believe each of us needs to learn how to survive, and eventually to die, in today’s modern medical world.” ###
Wendy J. Meyeroff, a Baltimore-based health communications expert, develops print/online materials for clients around the USA and beyond. She is a consultant to those seeking to impart info to seniors, as well as to those treating/helping them. See her website.