My siblings and I can’t seem to agree on end-of-life decisions for our parents, and they do not have a living will. How do we find consensus, if not agreement?
Consensus—having the same values and/or beliefs about something—might not be possible, but agreement is much more attainable. Agreement requires compromise but is less weighty and more concrete. For instance, you and your siblings might come to agree that your parents need to be part of the discussion. However, if your parents are beyond being able to understand and articulate personal wishes, it becomes paramount that you and your siblings find agreement through compromise. In that case, perhaps one of you could be chosen by the rest of you to represent your parents’ preferences.
Compromise assumes the validity of everyone’s preferences. Everyone’s opinion counts, but when there is disagreement, only compromise can move the discussion forward. In your discussion, be thoughtful and respectful, and listen carefully to the reasons for individual preferences.
Begin by agreeing on a meeting in the foreseeable future that can be attended by everyone involved. Agree that each of you will do some research and bring information about, for instance, what it means to have a living will; about cremation versus body burial; about ornate caskets versus a simpler, biodegradable casket; or about resuscitation (or not) after a medical emergency. Distribute the information and agree on another meeting within a month’s time. At that meeting, focus on what is truly important: your common desire for closure at death.
Above all, remember that Jesus has promised we will be with him in paradise if we recognize our need for a Savior. Hopefully there is consensus among your parents, you, and your siblings on that score.