Medical Directives- Helping You Have Control Over How You Die

 

While we all hope that we will just drift away and die in our sleep one day, the reality is this is not what usually happens.

Portrait of beautiful smiling 45 years old woman

Judy and her two sisters wanted to do everything possible to keep dad alive. They were willing to do whatever measures were available to keep him alive. And to keep their hope alive. A feeding tube was inserted to help dad get the nutrition she needed. He was given antibiotics to keep infection at bay. One medical intervention after another was offered. The sisters accepted everything hoping and praying for a miracle.

Their brother John, on the other hand, was appalled. “This is not what Dad would have wanted! We need to let him go!”

His sisters accused him of not caring. The said he was being selfish. And so, the family divide began.

And in the end, Dad died. After all, he was 88 years old. No matter what they tried he was just not able to recover from the stroke he had.

And the damage had been done. His children were no longer speaking.

Do you want life-sustaining treatment when you are nearing the end?

Whether the answer is yes or no to this question doesn’t matter. This is a personal choice. What does matter is that your family knows your wishes? And it needs to be in writing. Everything should be clearly spelled out. There are two documents that you should have in place. One is a DNR and the other is a POLST.

What is a DNR?

DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate. This order alerts doctors, nurses, and emergency personnel that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should not be used to keep a person alive in case of a medical emergency.  Someone who is ill may want to refuse any life-sustaining treatment. As such they may have a DNR on file with their doctors, hospital and other personnel.

What is a POLST?

This acronym stands for Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. This is a binding document with your doctor. It is kept as part of your medical files. A POLST declares a patient’s preference for receiving certain life-sustaining treatments. Other treatment options the patient does not want will also be included as a part of this document.

If you do not want to have a feeding tube, antibiotics or to be hydrated you need to make your wishes known. Had Judy and John’s dad had this document in place the family may still be intact. Instead, harsh accusations were made in a time of grief.

This document should be made when you are not in a medical crisis that could affect your decision making.

And there are other documents you also need to have in place. Planning ahead will help your family make the best decisions for your care according to your wishes.

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