Skip Denial and Suffering: Honor a Client’s Pragmatic Approach to Terminal Illness

DAN SOLINAdvisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

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You may encounter clients who have received a terminal diagnosis and clearly communicate their priorities.

How do you support a client who says, “I want to avoid the end stage where I suffer unnecessarily and deplete my savings. Quality of life is my priority. Assisted suicide is an option I want to explore when the time is right”?

Consider the following steps:

Respect the client’s perspective

When clients express a pragmatic approach to their terminal diagnosis, respect their perspective. Acknowledge their desire to avoid prolonged suffering and financial burden. Assure them you will work diligently to help achieve their goals and honor their wishes.

Review financial priorities

Begin by reviewing their financial situation. Discuss their wishes for their remaining time, like ensuring their loved ones are provided for and minimizing unnecessary expenses. Help them create a budget that focuses on their quality of life and aligns with their values.


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Update estate planning and end-of-life documents

Encourage the client to update their estate plan, including their will, trust, and beneficiary designations. Ensure their wishes regarding the distribution of their assets are documented. Discuss the importance of having advance directives, like a living will and healthcare power of attorney, which outline their preferences for end-of-life care and medical interventions.

Provide the facts about assisted suicide

When a client expresses interest in exploring assisted suicide, provide objective information about the legal and practical implications. Discuss the laws in states like Vermont and Oregon that don’t have a residency requirement for assisted suicide. Emphasize thoroughly researching the rules and regulations surrounding this option and consulting with legal professionals and healthcare providers.

Acknowledge and honor your own beliefs

What if you’re strongly opposed to assisted suicide on moral or religious grounds? Navigating this situation requires a delicate balance between your personal beliefs and your professional responsibility. Here are some suggestions on how to handle this situation.

  • Acknowledge personal beliefs: Be honest about your beliefs about assisted suicide and explain your strong moral or religious objections to this option. Transparency lets the client understand your perspective and decide if they feel comfortable continuing the conversation.
  • Maintain professionalism: Strive to maintain a professional and non-judgmental approach. Avoid imposing your values or attempting to dissuade the client from exploring this option.
  • Provide objective information: If you are comfortable doing so, you can still support the client by offering objective information about assisted suicide laws, regulations, and practical considerations.
  • Encourage exploration of alternatives: While respecting the client's autonomy, you can encourage them to explore alternative options. These may include palliative care, hospice services, and other measures focusing on maximizing quality of life and minimizing suffering.
  • Refer to other professionals: If you feel your personal beliefs prevent you from providing objective guidance on assisted suicide, consider referring to another financial professional.
  • Emphasize client autonomy: The final decision rests with the client. Emphasize that while you may have personal views, you respect the client’s right to choose. Your role is to provide information and support.
  • Focus on other aspects of planning: You can still provide valuable support by focusing on other aspects of end-of-life planning, like updating estate plans, reviewing financial priorities, and ensuring the client’s wishes are documented.

Support the client’s emotional wellbeing

Throughout this process, prioritize the client’s emotional wellbeing. Encourage them to seek support from mental health professionals who can help them cope with the emotional challenges of facing a terminal illness. Provide resources for support groups or organizations specializing in end-of-life care.

Maintain regular contact with the client and offer ongoing support. Be available to answer questions, address concerns, and help the client and their loved ones navigate the practical and emotional aspects of their situation. Remind them that they are not alone and that you are there to support them.

Final thoughts

When a client with a terminal diagnosis desires to approach their remaining time pragmatically, it’s your role to provide compassionate support and guidance. By respecting their perspective, reviewing financial priorities, exploring end-of-life options, and considering moral and ethical implications, you can help them make informed decisions that align with their values and wishes.

You can provide the support they need by approaching these conversations with empathy, sensitivity, and a commitment to their well-being.

Dan coaches evidence-based financial advisors on how to convert more prospects into clients. His digital marketing firm is a leading provider of SEO, website design, branding, content marketing, and video production services to financial advisors worldwide.

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