Saturday, January 8, 2011

Living Wills 2

Families so often chose to keep their loved one alive longer simply for themselves, which I found so hard. Many chose according to their religious or moral beliefs, which I can respect, even though I disagreed with them. What struck me, however, was how often the patient hadn't expressed to their family what their wishes would be, not even verbally, let alone by writing them down. The end result of that was that family members are put in a terrible position, forced to make horrible choices they would never have chosen to make.
It's such a mistake, and I see it often. We fear death in our culture, or find it too uncomfortable or impolite to talk about. But it's so very important to share with others what we want done if we're no longer in a position to decide it ourselves. I counsel everyone who comes to me for advice about a family member with dementia or illness to make sure you find out what they want, and better yet, have them write it down.
We don't want to think it will happen to us, so we don't decide what we want and we don't talk about it. I have a living will expressing very clearly that I want as many measures to be taken as possible at first, but if it looks like there's no way I'm coming back, then give my organs to someone who can use them!

Another aspect of the program was simple information on what it means to have the kind of technology we now have and the fact that we have machines that will essentially live our bodies for us. Your family member could potentially live forever, hooked up to machines, and is that what you really want! At what point do we decide to let nature take it's course?
We're living longer than we ever have in the past, and medical science continues to advance. I strongly believe it is worthwhile to take some time out to reflect on that, and then decide what you would like to happen to your body in the worst case scenario. And after you have done THAT, please tell it to someone you trust and write it down for the world to see. Because if you don't, you may be leaving your loved ones to make horrible, impossible choices on your behalf-choices you may never have wanted.

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