Perhaps at no other time in recent history has making your health care wishes known in advance become so important for adults of all ages. Doctors battling the Coronavirus on the front lines say the nature of this pandemic isolates victims, especially those on ventilators which prevent patients from making their healthcare wishes known.
In light of this, physicians, lawyers, and financial planners are urging Americans to draft a living will that states your wishes when you cannot speak for yourself.
What is a living will? The American Bar Association (ABA) says, “Depending on state law, this document may permit you to express whether you wish to be given life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured, to decide in advance whether you wish to be provided food and water via intravenous devices (“tube feeding”), and to give other medical directions that impact your care, including the end of life.”†
In an interview with CNBC, New York Hospital Physician, Dr. Sarah Norris, explains that living wills provide much-needed guidance to physicians caring for loved ones. “When a patient first arrives, I ask them, ‘Who would they want to speak for them if they are unable to speak for themselves?’”††
The ABA also suggests in addition to a living will, it’s important to consider naming a durable medical power of attorney or health care proxy. “You appoint a person and grant to him or her the authority to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to express your preferences about medical treatment.”†
Dr. Norris says, “We all need to sit back and think about how someone can respect our life and maintain our personal set of values in the hospital when we are provided with care. We want to hear your voice through your health-care proxy and living will.”††
Experts agree that communication before a life-changing event is essential, although the topic can be awkward to broach. The ABA advises families to “take the time to discuss these issues with the person you appoint as your health care proxy. Talk to your physician. Make sure your family knows how you feel about end of life issues. The more these individuals know, the easier it will be for them to fulfill your wishes.”†
†American Bar Association; “Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives”; ABA Article Citation
††Epperson, Sharon; “As coronavirus continues to spread, doctors urge Americans to get a living will”; CNBC.com; Published Tue, Apr 28 2020 7:28 AM EDT, Updated Tue, Apr 28 2020 11:42 AM EDT; CNBC Article Citation
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Form TRN00006P; Rev. 5-2020