Michael Doring Connelly, a 40-plus-year healthcare veteran and former CEO of Mercy Health, details how senior citizens (and people with terminal diagnoses) can have more control and dignity in the final phases of their lives in his new book, The Journey’s End: An Investigation into Death and Dying in Modern America (Rowman & Littlefield; April 2023; ISBN: 9781538175491; Hardcover). In an interview, Connelly can detail how to change the standard approach to end-of-life care and the practical benefits of facing death as a reality rather than trying to medicalize it.
The author claims that when the system stops fighting death with invasive procedures and prescription drugs, dying becomes a shared, caring family experience rather than a cold, clinical and medical ordeal. Emphasizing the importance of knowledge and communication, The Journey’s End aims to raise awareness of the key issues driving the dysfunction of U.S. healthcare, with attention to how the elderly bear the brunt, while encouraging people to develop “death literacy.” (story continues below)
In the book, readers will learn the following five tips and more:
* Many older patients are not getting what they want in respect to end-of-life care. Instead, they are receiving invasive — and unproductive — treatments in the last months of their lives.
* Elder patients should have palliative care consults before aggressive end-of-life treatments like chemotherapy, dialysis, surgery or a visit to the ICU.
* Why health policies routinely pay for futile attempts to avoid death but refuse to cover effective, needed and much less expensive social support services — and steps for reform, including eliminating prescription drug ads targeting the elderly that offer false hope for cures and taxing healthcare benefits to decrease demand for high-cost treatments.
* Everyone deserves to die with dignity and around their loved ones. Why everyone in the ranks of senior citizens and anyone grappling with a grave disease needs to clearly express their wishes for dying — with details on feeding tubes, ventilators and more — and document their preferences in a cell phone video, if not an official advance directive.
Michael Doring Connelly served as CEO of Mercy Health, one of the nation’s largest health systems, from 1994 to 2017. He previously served as an executive with the Daughters of Charity National Health System (now the Ascension Health System) and has experience with healthcare systems in Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Spain. He has published numerous articles in various healthcare journals and served as the chair of prominent organizations, including Catholic Charities USA. He lives on Johns Island, South Carolina.