An all too common scenario may look something like this:
A woman at the end stage of cancer suffered a stroke. Her brother, the only surviving relative, is overseas and can’t be reached. She did not have any health care directives to describe her healthcare wishes and designate someone who can make decisions for her. Important and difficult decisions regarding her care, such as life-sustaining treatment, were left to the doctors and nurses who don’t know her or even met her before.
In these difficult moments, a proper health care directive would have helped the doctors and any loved ones in making the medical decisions necessary to care for her.
An advanced health care directive is a document that explains the healthcare you desire in case of a serious injury or illness or incapacity. It can clarify such issues as whether you want to be resuscitated if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious or whether you want home hospice care instead of care at the hospital. It’s not only for the end-of-life care, but the document may be most helpful if you were temporarily incapacitated and there’s a chance for recovery.
At a minimum, you can name an agent (usually your spouse is the initial agent) who will speak and provide consent for medical decisions, and/or releases with hospitals and doctors on your behalf.
Once you determine who your trusted agent is, talk to him or her about how you want your care to go. That way, it’s clear and your loved ones aren’t left arguing with one another about your care. It may be hard to get the conversation going, but once you get them started, it can be a relief and empowering.
About the Author
Christine Chung, Esq.