You know that life is very uncertain, but you know exactly who you want calling the shots about your life if you can’t make your own decisions. You’ve even given them your health care power of attorney to hold in case an emergency happens.

But have you left specific guidance for that person? Maybe you’ve expressed your general sentiments about end-of-life care to that person, but have you discussed — in detail — advanced care planning issues like:

  • Resuscitation: What are your exact feelings on resuscitation? If your heart stops beating, do you want doctors to try CPR? Is a greater effort — like electric shock — okay?
  • Artificial respiration: Do you want mechanical ventilation if you can’t breathe on your own? At what point would you want it removed?
  • Dialysis: If your kidneys begin to fail, do you want machine dialysis to be attempted? Under what circumstances would you want it stopped?
  • Tube feeding and fluids: If you are unable to eat, do you want a feeding tube? Would you want the feeding to stop at a certain point? What about fluids if you can’t take liquids by mouth?
  • Pain care: Do you have any objection to pain control methods of any kind? What other sort of palliative care would you want if your condition is terminal?
  • Organ and body donation: Do you want your power of attorney to authorize organ and tissue harvesting? Are you willing to donate bone? What are the limits?

Having all of this written down into an advance directive (or living will) is the best way to make sure that your wishes are unambiguous. It also gives the person making decisions a source of authoritative information, should the need arise.

Are you unsure if your end-of-life plans are sufficient? An elder law attorney can help you better understand your needs.

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