Previous presentations in MLA Norm Letnick's Focus on Health series dealt with prolonging life, but the latest forum dealt with ending it.
Death was the topic of discussion at the fifth forum Saturday at UBCO Okanagan in Kelowna.
About 80 people turned out to hear Letnick, along with Drs. Hal Siden, Carole Robinson and Barbara Pesut and lawyer Ross Langford, discuss the stages of dying, how people experience death and how to prepare for one's own death or that of a family member.
Letnick, who is B.C.'s agriculture minister and who chaired the Select Standing Committee on Health, decided to host a discussion on death because of a personal experience.
"I had a friend who was dying and who I helped through that passage," said Letnick, the MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.
"I gained personal growth by that experience, and I think that by sharing stories we can be prepared for when we die or when a family member or friend dies."
Pesut, an associate professor at UBCO's school of nursing, said the seniors population in Canada will grow by 63 per cent by 2036 and that because seniors are living longer, it's essential to start planning now.
Pesut said many health-care providers are being asked to ask a "surprise question" - Do you think this person will die in a year?
She said a "good death" is defined as one that includes whether the person can mange one's symptoms, still have control and choice in one's decision-making, support, dignity and privacy, resolve one's interpersonal resolutions and have one's final wishes granted.
"The journey to death is not as different as the journey that we go through each day," Pesut said.
Robinson emphasized the importance of making sure the people in your life know your wishes involving your death.
"Think about your wishes and give direction to your children," Robinson said. "We can't assume we know what our loved ones want. We all need to have the conversation. Start the conversation and start early, and have it many times over the years," she said.
Robinson also suggested having the conversation with your doctor as well.
"In an ideal world, you should be having this conversation with your doctor about your health, your family history and your concerns," she said.
Robinson added that these conversations are more difficult in high-pressure situations, so planning ahead is important.
"Think about who should speak for you if you can't speak for yourself," Robinson said.