End-of-Life Essentials Blog

The 3 Wishes Project: Transforming End-of-Life Care

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A guest post by Thanh Neville MD, MSHS, Associate Professor, UCLA, 3 Wishes Program Medical Director

In the hectic environment of the intensive care units (ICU), the 3 Wishes Project is a symbol of compassion, seeking to redefine the end-of-life narrative for patients dying in the hospital. As the Medical Director of the 3 Wishes Program (3WP) at UCLA, I am deeply invested in the impact this initiative has on patients, families, and clinicians navigating the delicate balance between life and death.

Rehumanising End-of-Life Care in the ICU

As a space where advanced medicines and technology are used to save lives, the ICU can often be a stark and impersonal setting for those grappling with the inevitability of life's end. Originally founded in Canada by Dr. Deborah Cook, the 3WP was conceived with a simple yet transformative goal: to infuse humanity back into the final moments of critically ill patients. By eliciting and fulfilling simple, but meaningful final wishes for those at the end of life, we seek to celebrate the individuality of each patient and offer solace to the grieving families left behind. Since its initiation at UCLA in 2017, we have fulfilled over 5600 wishes for more than 1600 patients.

The project's approach is straightforward yet powerful—encouraging specific, personalised wishes that reflect the unique journey, story, and preferences of everyone involved.

This low-technology, low-risk, and low-cost initiative holds the potential to improve end-of-life care for critically ill patients. By fostering a sense of connection, dignity, and individuality in the face of mortality, the 3 Wishes Project transcends the boundaries of traditional healthcare, offering a compassionate alternative to the often-sterile environment of ICUs.

By weaving together compassion, cultural sensitivity, and spiritual acknowledgment, the project paves the way for a future where end-of-life care is not just a clinical endeavour, but a profoundly humane and deeply meaningful experience for all involved. As we expand the reach of the 3 Wishes Project, we envision a healthcare landscape where empathy and connection prevail, even in the face of life's inevitable conclusion.

In the face of life's most challenging moments, the 3 Wishes Project stands as a testament to the transformative power of simple acts of kindness. By honouring the unique wishes of each patient, we strive to bring peace, comfort, and a sense of dignity to the final days of those in our care, leaving a lasting positive impact on families and clinicians alike.



Dr Thanh Neville MD, MSHS

Associate Professor, UCLA

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