Everyone is going to die. All of us. Some will die when we are young, some when we are old. Some will die a quick death, and others will linger while those around us try to figure out what to do.
So, all this talk about "end of life conversations" leading to more old people dying makes me wonder what people think will happen if you don't talk about your end of life wishes. Because even if you don't talk about what you want to happen at the end of your life, the end of your life will still come. And having the talk (or talks, this isn't necessarily a one time thing if your beliefs or situation changes) with your family and doctor will not hasten your death, despite what some of the comments in the recent Boston Globe column seem to imply.
Talking about your end of life wishes is the way to make sure that when that time comes your family knows what you want, and they are able to communicate to your doctors so that your wishes are carried out. It gives your family comfort knowing that any difficult decision is yours, not theirs. And it can go a long way towards making sure your wishes are respected and honored, even if they are not the same decisions your loved ones would make for themselves.
If you don't have a doctor you are comfortable with, or maybe you don't have a regular doctor, you can have the conversation with your family or your friends. You can write your wishes down and keep them somewhere where they would be found in an emergency.
Then, you need to give someone the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions (or communicate them.) In Massachusetts the way you do this is by signing a Health Care Proxy. Ideally, you would have this document drawn up by an attorney to make sure it included additional powers not included in the form given to you by the hospital.
For my clients, I always include a health care proxy with their estate plan, and we talk about their end of life wishes and document those wishes for their family and doctors. I can tell you that so far not one of my clients has died from having that conversation. But I can also tell you that 100% of them will die someday.