What La Crosse knows about dying

NPR’s Planet Money has dropped in on La Crosse, Wis., to find out why so many people there have planned for their deaths, writing down what they want to have happen at their end of their lives. Ninety-six percent of people who die in La Crosse have specific directions written for how they will handle death. Nationwide, it’s more like 50 percent.

  1. Listen Planet Money: The Town That Loves Death

    March 3, 2014

In La Crosse, if you don’t fill out a directive, you’ll hear about it from your neighbors, apparently. And officials in other communities are trying to model end-of-life planning after La Crosse, which first started focusing on the issue 20 years ago.

  • DMS

    Bob,
    I was in La Crosse 20 years ago when all this got started. I was working as a chaplain resident at one of the hospitals in La Crosse. During my two years there I had many conversations with patients and families concerning “Living wills” or “Advance Directives” documents that shared what kind of medical treatment they would or would not want if certain medical conditions came about. No one was “forced” to sign anything, the goal was to get people to begin thinking and discussing. If they wished to fill out a document, we could assist them. The hospital had a full time ethicist on staff who trained the chaplain staff and other hospital staff how to discuss this issues with patients and families. He also gave many presentations in the hospital and to groups outside the hospital about the importance to discuss with family these issues. I believe these conversations not only got people thinking and talking with family about end of life decisions, but also got them thinking and talking with family about funeral issues as well. The program began 20 years ago is the reason for the 96% in the story.

  • Karol

    As a physician in La Crosse, my patient’s and colleagues feel relief once their advance directives are in place. It protects their families from making end of life decisions without guidance. It really is all about choices. Patient’s get to make their own decisions and families are relieved of difficult decisions at stressful times. Our society finds talking about death difficult, but it is a reality for every person. La Crosse and Gunderson Health Systems cares about patients and the advance directive program empowers people and guides health care providers. I am fortunate to live in a community that puts people first.