August 27th, 2009


VA booklet: Your Life, Your Choices -- aka "the death book"

Have you heard anything about the so-called "death book" being given to Vets? 

The booklet is called -
Your Life, Your Choices: Planning for Future Medical Decisions: How to Prepare a Personalized Living Will

Are you blindly listening to the rhetoric about it, or have you seen it yourself

Read it here as a pdf.

I'm looking at it right now, and it doesn't appear to be a "death book" at all... but is a booklet that can help anyone ask tough questions about what YOUR wishes are if you are unable to make your own health care decisions - due to stroke, dementia or a coma, for example.  

The booklet has exercises "to help you specify your beliefs and values" as to what you want for your health care.

One of the questions is "If you couldn't speak for yourself, what would you want done for you?" then it has a series of statements to consider whether you agree with or not, including:
 - My life should be prolonged as long as it can, no matter what its quality, and using any means possible.
 - I'd want my religious advisers to be consulted about all medical decisions made on my behalf to make sure they are in keeping with my religious teachings.
 - I'd want to have my pain controlled, even if the medications make me sleepy and make it difficult to have conversations with my family.
 - My personal wishes would not be as important as what my family thinks is best for me.
 - I believe there are some situations in which I would not want treatments to keep me alive.

Then, you, the reader are encouraged to discuss your answers with others so that they know what is important to you with regard to your own health care decisions...  

The workbook also encourages talking about your wishes with whoever might be called upon to speak for you, if you're unable to speak for yourself.  They suggest you may want to talk about your health care wishes to your spokesperson (if you choose one), family, friends, clergy, health care providers, and/or other caregivers. 

It includes a list of nine topics you might want to discuss with your loved ones and care providers:
1. Your choice of a spokesperson (if you choose one)
2. Your beliefs
3. Health conditions (how you feel about certain health conditions, and what you want done if you can't speak for yourself)
4. Life-sustaining treatments (how you feel about certain treatments)
5. Your vision of a good death (do you want to die with your family by your side if possible? tell them!)
6. Organ donation
7. Funeral arrangements (do you want to be cremated? do you want a particular reading at your memorial service?)
8. Documentation of your wishes (if you have your health care wishes written down, tell someone so they know where to find it if needed)
9. Helping others use your personalized directive (do you want your wishes followed to the letter, or do you want your wishes used as a general guide?)


"What Teachers Make" a poem by Taylor Mali

I've posted this before... But with teachers and students headed back to classrooms all over the U.S. right now, I thought it was worthwhile to post it again.  It's awesome (even though he bashes on lawyers a little bit)...

Watch Taylor Mali perform "What Teachers Make" live at a poetry slam here.  Awesome!

What Teachers Make

By Taylor Mali  (

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you're a teacher, Taylor," he says.
"Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?