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José José’s Heartbreaking Death Shows Needs for End-of-Care Planning

The recent death of José Romulo Sosa Ortiz — better known as “José José”has created a great confusion about the meaning of the enc-of-life care option called hospice.

Although the official cause of the death of the legendary Mexican crooner is still unknown and whether he had an advance directive, news reports indicate that the singer of ‘El Triste’ had pancreatic cancer and he died in a hospice facility at the University of Miami. 

Hospice

Hospice is a service that provides compassionate medical care at the end of life.  Unlike in José’s case, hospice is almost always provided in the patient’s home, but arrangements can be made for it to be provided wherever the patient is most comfortable, such as in the home of a family member or friend. 

Hospice services are also provided in dedicated hospice facilities, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, hospitals and long-term care facilities, as it has been reported in José Josés case.

California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C. authorize an additional end-of-life care option for mentally capable individuals with a terminal illness and a prognosis of six months or less to live. In these 10 jurisdictions, terminally ill adults can request a doctor’s prescription for medication to peacefully end their suffering when hospice and palliative care cannot provide relief. In addition, New York and about two dozen other states are considering legislation to authorize medical aid in dying.

El Triste (The Sad One)

Unfortunately, José’s death set off a bitter battle between his oldest children, José Joel and Marysol Sosa and their half-sister, Sara Sosa – one that the legendary crooner probably never imagined.   

I often wonder if the ‘Prince of Song’ ever spoke to his wife, and three children about his end- of- life goals, preferences and values, so they would have had guidance about what would have wanted at the end of his life.

One thing I am almost certain, is that the singer of ‘El Triste’  would be heartbroken to know about the feud that is tearing his family apart.

Latinos

Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead, is coming up soon (Nov. 1-2), so it is an opportune time to talk about the inevitability of death for all of us and how to prepare for it. 

It is no secret that Latinos often avoid conversation about end-of-life care. Ironically, Latinos often experience the highest rates of life-threatening illnesses, yet we are the least likely to complete advance directives or discuss if we want to receive medical interventions to prolong life or an agonizing dying process. 

Advance Directives

However, we can address these disparities by filling out an advance directive, communicating with our doctors and loved ones about, if we become too sick to speak for ourselves, whether we would want to be kept ‘alive’ with aggressive medical treatments that only prolong the dying process. 

An advance directive is the guide or cornerstone of your advance planning. It makes your end-of-life preferences clear if you are unable to communicate or make medical treatment decisions yourself. Typically, an advance directive includes a living will about what healthcare preferences you want at the end of life and a medical durable power of attorney who will speak on your behalf about your healthcare preferences if you are unable to do so. 

End-of-life care options

Doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains can give a terminally person recommendations and options for a healthcare plan. However, only the dying person, in consultation with their loved ones, is the one who should decide what treatments they want, if any, and the way they want to live their last moments. 

If you have a medical prognosis of six months or less to live, you have the option to choose hospice and palliative care to maximize the quality of life you have left and decline futile aggressive, painful medical care that only will extend an agonizing dying process.

José José is gone. I hope the circus around the ‘Sad’ ‘Clown’s’ family tragedy will serve a greater purpose and remind others the importance of advance directives and end-of-life conversations to avoid a similar situation like that of their idol, José José.

 

Patricia A. González-Portillo is a former journalist for The Brownsville [Texas] Herald, The [Riverside, CA] Press-Enterprise and La Opinión [Los Angeles],  Currently, she is the national Latino Communications and Constituency Director at Compassion & Choices CompassionAndChoices.org


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