Doctors Die Differently

“‘Do everything you can for him, Doc’ is a phrase with far-reaching implications….  There comes a time for every person when his or her identity is gone, and the quality of life should be valued more than the mere presence of it.”

A recent CNN article highlighted that 88.3% of doctors have stated in an Advance Directive that their lives should not be sustained by artificial means if they are in a terminal condition.

Whether or not you have an Advance Directive, it is important to talk to your closest living relatives about whether you’d like to received life support if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.  Of course, if the doctors think you may recover, no one is going to “pull the plug”.  However, if you are in a terminal condition (you’re going to die, it’s just a matter of hours or days) or a permanent vegetative state (think Terri Schaivo), ending life support may be the best choice.  Not many of my clients choose to have their life prolonged when that “life” consists of a series of involved medical procedures every day just to keep the heart beating in their body . . . when they’re not really in that body any more.

It’s important to let your family know what your wishes are – for both your sake and theirs.  What if you are in a terminal state and experiencing a lot of pain, but your family can’t agree on whether you would want life support ended?  What if the bills are piling up, thousands of dollars an hour?  What if the people you care about most spend your last hours fighting over your life?  What if someone spends the rest of his or her life haunted by the possibility that the choice that was made wasn’t what you wanted?

An Advance Directive brings certainty to an uncertain situation.  You name a health care representative to make decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself.

Tip:     Your health care representative can be whoever you want.  If you want someone other than your closest living relative calling the shots, it is imperative that you name your representative in an Advance Directive.

You can authorize your health care representative to be the one to make decisions about life support.  You can also relieve a loved one of the stress and potential heartbreak of making that decision by delegating it to your doctors.  Lastly, you can provide guidance about the circumstances under which you might like to receive life support.

Life is unpredictable, and many things are out of our control.  One thing you can control is end-of-life care.  An Advance Directive is an important gift for you and your family.