These critical documents about your
preferences for end-of-life care don't always work as planned. More flexibility
might be the answer.
Making end of life decisions
means generating and updating your living will (or advance health care
directive). These documents often appear simple, but that doesn’t mean the underlying
issues themselves aren’t complex.
According to a recent article in
The Wall Street Journal titled “A New Look at Living Wills,”
unfortunately these issues are only growing increasingly complex.
In its essence, the living will
is a document in which you clarify your medical wishes. This allows your loved
ones to implement them if you are incapacitated and unable to reflect upon them
yourself in the future. Given modern medical science, doctors can keep a human
body “alive” long after the “person” inside has lost what he or she would have
regarded as a minimally acceptable quality of life.
With each new advance in medical
science, there seem to be more and more ethical and legal dilemmas. For
example, the typical living will contemplates feeding tubes and respirators,
but these can maintain a “persistent vegetative state” leading to shades of
gray for the appointed health care agent and physician as they interpret your
wishes. Moreover, the boundary between the patient being “there” or “not there”
is only getting hazier as science progresses. In the end, even physicians don’t
always seem to understand the power they may be wielding over life and death.
Planning for your end-of-life
scenarios is never easy, nor is it easy to faithfully interpret the wishes of a
loved one. Nevertheless, as with all aspects of estate planning, communication
with your agents, loved ones, physician and spiritual advisor holds the key to
success as you define it.
Reference: The Wall Street
Journal (June 8, 2012) “A New Look at Living Wills”