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I have been thinking about making out an Advance Directive for Health Care but keep putting it off. The subject is a rather morbid one, and I find it hard to address. What are the consequences of not having an Advance Directive?
As you know, an Advance Directive for Health Care is a document in which a person can put in writing some important things in case he or she ever gets into a medical crisis. It permits the person to name an agent to make health care decisions if the person, in the opinion of the treating physician, does not have the capacity to make or communicate health care decisions. The Advance Directive also has a section permitting you to put in writing what kinds of medical treatment, including life support, you wish to receive under different scenarios. If you do not make out an Advance Directive, there are no directions, one way or another, as to what care you wish to receive when you are in a medical crisis. Obviously, your treating physician will talk to your next-of-kin about health care decisions, but the goal would be to try to determine what your wishes would have been had you been able to make decisions or communicate them.
You may recall the recent situation of the young woman from Florida. In 1990, when she was 26 years of age, she suddenly collapsed in her home after her heart stopped. This incident left her in a vegetative state where she was dependent upon feeding tubes to survive. After many years of keeping her alive in this vegetative state, her husband, who was her legal guardian, attempted to disconnect the feeding tubes. This action was opposed by her parents. The parents brought a court case to try to keep their daughter alive by keeping the feeding tubes in place. This one example speaks volumes about how something that should have been a personal decision got completely out of control. It also is a lesson for us all to put something in writing to avoid this happening to ourselves and our families