Don't wait until it's too late to set up a medical care directive

People in California may have seen a compelling news article about a recent survey of physicians and how they would choose to handle their end-of-life decisions. Perhaps surprisingly, many of those surveyed reported that they would not want medical caretakers to take extensive life-prolonging measures. Of those surveyed, 95% said they would not want CPR, over 85% said they would not want a ventilator and at least 75% said they would not want a feeding tube.

Doctors have more experience in these matters than most laypersons, so it is interesting that they seem to favor life-prolonging measures less than the general public. But every person is different, and every patient is entitled to live and die in the manner that they choose. For this reason, it's important that people strongly consider setting up a durable power of attorney or health care directive in case they are faced with a difficult medical situation but are incapacitated and unable to express their wishes.

People may choose to set up a living will, which offers guidance on which methods of life preservation they would choose or reject. This document serves as a blueprint, but may not allow a person to grant decision-making power in the case of complications or unforeseen scenarios. For these instances, a person can issue a durable power of attorney, which allows a trusted loved one to make health care decisions on their behalf if he or she becomes incapacitated.

There are many ways a person can grant powers of attorney for specific purposes, but it cannot be stressed enough that people should do so while they are healthy and capable of making these decisions. After incapacitation it is too late to make these directives or execute powers of attorney, which is why people shouldn't delay making these life and death decisions for themselves while still able to do so.

Source: LifeHealthPro "End-of-life care: Decisions should be made now," Tom Nawrocki, July 9, 2013

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