By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Today, I’m going to write about a subject most of us find unpleasant — death. Starting a conversation about death, especially when we’re discussing our own death or the death of a family member, is often so difficult that it doesn’t happen. Avoiding discussions about death doesn’t make it any less inevitable, but it can make the eventuality less peaceful.
If we could plan our deaths, we would all gently pass in our homes surrounded by loved ones. The reality is never as easy as we hope, and the burden of final care decisions often falls on family members or a loved one. Without a clear understanding of your wishes for end-of-life care, those decisions can become stressful and painful.
When we take time to decide for ourselves (and put our wishes in writing) we spare our family and the people who love us the unfortunate task of guessing about what we would want. Make your wishes clear and ensure that your decisions about end-of-life care are respected by setting up a living will and appointing a health care proxy. You do not need a lawyer to create a living will or appoint a health care agent, though you may wish to consult with one.
A living will is a document that states your wishes when you are no longer able to represent yourself. A living will makes clear the types of medical treatments and-life sustaining measures you want as part of your end-of-life care. The will does not go into effect until two physicians certify that you are unable to make medical decisions in the medical condition specified in your state’s living will law. (This could include terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness). Other stipulations may exist — living will laws vary from state to state. In Georgia, living wills go into effect when we have a terminal condition or are in a persistent comatose condition or persistent vegetative state.
When creating a living will, you will determine what medical intervention you do and do not want. As technology has progressed, we have more choices and must make complex decisions about our death. Do you believe that any and all measures should be taken to keep you alive? Do you believe that when the time comes you would rather abstain from life-sustaining measures? Most religions support the use of living wills, but some are very opposed. You may want to discuss your decisions with a counselor from your religious community such as a priest, rabbi, imam or minister.
Appointing a Health Care Proxy
Just as important as a living will is appointing someone to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so. This person should know your wishes and have discussed them with you in-depth. They should be comfortable acting as your agent. You should be able to trust that they will make decisions in accordance with what they know you would want.
Choose a health care agent carefully. Take the time to have the uncomfortable discussion about end-of-life care. When the time comes, your loved ones will be grateful — you’ve made your decisions, which means they aren’t forced to do so for you.
Once you’ve made decisions about end-of-life care, talk to your family, doctor and friends. Let them know your wishes, especially if they may be called on by medical staff. Help them understand why you’ve chosen the care you did and why it matters to you. Don’t leave loved ones guessing!
To learn more about end-of-life care in Georgia, please refer to the following websites: