Although difficult, one of the most important conversations that you can have with your loved ones is about your private wishes for medical and end-of-life care. Many people assume that their families will make the choices that they would want in an emergency, yet very often we hear stories of adult children, siblings, or other relatives battling each other during a health care crisis over “what their loved one would have wanted.”
The most notorious case of this occurrence is the Terri Schiavo case in Florida in 1990. 26-year-old Terri unexpectedly suffered a cardiac arrest, subsequently falling into a persistent vegetative state. Terri’s husband fought for one course of treatment, but her parents fought for another. Terri never documented her own wishes about her preferred treatment, and the battle waged on for over 15 years in the court system. One can only imagine the pain, both emotionally and financially, brought on by this dispute.
Discussing your health care wishes, but more specifically, documenting those wishes in an Advance Health Care Directive and nominating an agent who has the authority to speak on your behalf is a proactive way to protect yourself, and your loved ones, from such a battle.
One of the most difficult decisions any of us might have to make is whether or not to stop life support for a loved one. Having your wishes well documented provides guidance during a stressful period and can alleviate the pressure of the decision for your loved ones.
You are helping yourself, and your loved ones, by discussing and documenting these preferences, and selecting an agent who will carry out your wishes in the face of an emotional decision.