Imagine you are in an accident, and your injuries leave you unconscious and intubated to help you breathe. Doctors have several options for treating your injuries, some of which are more conservative and others with higher risk. Perhaps, any measure they take will leave you debilitated, in pain and with a poor quality of life. Which would you choose? More importantly, does your family know what your answer would be?
The families of many patients in this and similar situations are left with the heartbreaking task of trying to guess what their loved one would want. These situations often lead to disputes as personal philosophies clash. However, you may reduce the chances of such a devastating scene if you draft an advance health care directive.
Digging deep to determine your wishes
An advance health care directive can speak for you if a medical condition prevents you from expressing your wishes for the kind of care you want and the kind you want doctors to withhold. Some common questions you will consider as you complete your health care directive include the following and many others:
- What kinds of actions would you want doctors to take to keep you alive, including CPR, intubation, dialysis or feeding tubes?
- Would you want life-sustaining measures if doctors have diagnosed you with a terminal illness, if you are in a coma or if you suffer injuries from which you are not likely to recover?
- Do you want doctors to take extraordinary measures to save your life if it means you will spend the rest of your life in a nursing home or having machines breathe for you?
- Do you prefer to spend your last days in a hospital or in your own home?
- Do you want your medical team and family members to consider any specific religious beliefs when they make decisions about your health care treatments?
- Are there any special religious ceremonies you would like at the end of your life?
- Would you like to donate your organs after your death?
As difficult as it may be to consider these questions and their implications, your answers may bring peace of mind to your family by relieving them of the burden of having to make painful decisions at a time of high emotion. With the assistance of a California attorney, you can draft your health care directive and designate someone to act as your health care power of attorney. These two documents can establish the cornerstone of your complete estate plan.