By a living will I am referring to instructions written out by a person to give direction to others about health care decisions in the event the person becomes unable to speak for themselves.
Writing in a way that will clearly be interpreted by others, as you intend your instructions to be interpreted, can be a problem. Consider the following exert from a living will.
If I become incapable of expressing my wishes and my physicians declare me to have a condition from which I will not recover, then I wish to have all life prolonging procedures withheld, including, but not limited to, artificial nutrition and hydration, and life support including intubation and ventilation.
Recently I was asked to comment on health care surrogate forms and power of attorney for health. For these I use the term living wills. These are directives that a person records to be used in the event that they become unable to communicate their wishes with respect to medical decision making. This seems fairly simple. Don’t we know how we would want to be treated? Some might say, “I never want to live, unable to communicate, in a nursing home” and record in their directives that they are never to be placed in a nursing home.. Should we be making decisions like this about our future? What if the Lord’s good plan for our life includes the very thing we direct people never to do? See my blog posting titled, Living Wills – Never put me in a nursing home.
Recently I was asked to comment on health care surrogate forms and power of attorney for health. For these I use the term living wills. They are directives that a person records that are intended to be used in the event that they become unable to communicate their wishes with respect to medical decision making. Sometimes the directives are given for a particular person. Where I live, we use the term Power of Attorney For Person Care (POA). This is a person who has the legal responsibility to make decisions for someone who is not able to give their own directions with respect to care. If I understand the laws where I live correctly, the POA of a person is supposed to attempt to make decisions that represent the decisions the person would make if they were able to do so. A Living Will might designate a POA for personal care. If one is not designated the law usually gives responsibility to one’s, spouse, then children, then parents and then siblings. If you write a living will when you are able to make decisions, then when you become unable to make decisions, whoever ends being your POA may find themselves bound by what you have written. What if your POA does not feel that he/she can, in clear conscience, follow your wishes? What if your POA thinks that to follow your wishes would require him/her to act contrary to the way they believe God would desire them to act? Should not these concerns influence what we write in a living will?
Recently, a reader of this blog ask me some questions about substitute decision making. There are some important things to consider with this aspect of medical care. So I am starting a new thread that I am calling “Living Wills.” The topic of substutute or surrogate decision making is related to living wills. As with most of my blog posts, I will tackle the topic in small chunks.
More than once I have had patients tell me that they never want me to put them in a nursing home. This sentiment is easy to understand, but how should we repond to this? Why do you not want to go into a nursing home? How much control do we have over things like this? How much control do we have over our future? How much control should we want to have over our future?
Worldview and Ethical Issues from a Biblical Perspective