December 18, 2017

Why is a Healthcare Directive recommended?

The purpose of a Healthcare Directive is to allow a trusted decision-maker to spare those who are unconscious (or otherwise unable to make decisions for themselves) from enduring unwanted healthcare treatments. In order for you to direct these difficult healthcare decisions, a Healthcare Directive must be in place. Without this document, family members may only be able to guess what you would have chosen for yourself. In the event there is disagreement over treatment, a physician will typically opt to continue life support. Thus, planning is critical.

Often, sudden trauma or serious illness brings family members together for the first time in years. Heart-wrenching decisions now have to be made. In some families, there may be a natural decision-maker. In others, too many options, too many conflicting values, too much friction, and too little practice in making joint decisions create fierce disagreements that may hurt both the family and the patient.

One should ask himself (herself): Do you trust your family members to make good healthcare decisions on your behalf? Does your family know the quality of life with which you are willing to live? Most people envision a peaceful death at home, surrounded by loved ones. But, 80% of us will die in long-term care facilities or hospitals. In these settings, many modern healthcare treatment options are readily available to prolong a life. Unfortunately, when a patient can no longer weigh these options themselves, difficult healthcare decisions falls to distraught family members. A Healthcare Directive avoids this conflict. It is a legally binding document that states what end-of-life treatment you want.