Can we talk about dying?

The Convenings, a Minnesota Public Radio-sponsored series sparked by Cathy Wurzer’s conversations with Bruce Kramer, who eventually succumbed to his ALS, must be unlocking the forbidden topic, because people around the state are coming out on weekday evenings to talk about dying.

On Tuesday night, the program stopped in Medford, Minn., the Owatonna People’s Press reports.

The Owatonna area is one of the first out-state communities to participate in a push to get people to complete advance directives. But only about 10 percent of people have advance directives, guidelines for dying, in their medical files, according to David Albrecht, president of Owatonna Hospital.

“We found we can prolong your dying, but we can’t always prolong your life, and that is powerful,” Dr. Robert Speckhals said.

There are two Honoring Choices Health Care Directives, a traditional, comprehensive, eight-page-long document leading individuals through medical, spiritual, and personal choices, and a short form that is new and simple, allowing one to name an agent and list basic health care wishes. An agent, also referred to as a proxy, is the one entrusted to make decisions for a person if he or she cannot make those calls.

While an attorney is not required to complete health care directives, it must be in writing, with full name clearly visible, signed, and dated. In addition, the directive must list a health care agent and/or healthcare treatment instructions, and it must be witnessed by two adults or a notary public.

If you haven’t done that, why not, exactly?

“So many of us put this off,” George Dow, an attorney whose wife died last year, said. “Many individuals want at least some of their estate to go to certain charitable causes, and it would behoove them to spell out those provisions, or else ‘it won’t happen.’

“You, not us, have to make those calls,” he said. They ought to be spelled out in a living will, and “I can’t stress how important that is.”

In Faribault and Owatonna, volunteers will soon fan out to urge people to create advance directives, the paper said.

From the archive: La Crosse: The town that knows how to die (NewsCut)