Read Part 1.
The Advanced Directive
The Advance directive or health care directive is a document that allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life.1 Because every one of us will die, this document is important. If you think not consider this:
- The Terri Schiavo case2 and the debate about her wishes. Her husband said one thing and her parents disputed it. Her own wishes were never documented. Another such case was Karen Ann Quinlan.3
- In my own family a relative had a health care directive of sorts—it was from his church but he had never had it notarized and filed. When he was stricken there was a mild dispute among his offspring about whether his ventilator should be removed. The doctors themselves would not agree to remove it because his wishes were not officially documented. He lingered longer than was probably necessary.
- One might think, “that won’t happen to me!” In my own case I broke my neck in a serious accident when I was only 38. I was semi-conscious for a period of time. Decisions about my care had to be made.
- My own mother wisely had a health care directive. She specified that she did not want any extraordinary means to extend her life. It was clearly documented and so there was absolutely no debate. My siblings and I knew mom’s wishes. This past March she was given approximately a week to live. She told my sister, “I’m going to heaven!” And she died the next day.