By, Jody Hudspeth, Paralegal for The Law Offices of Carol Bertsch, PC
One of the many hats I wear as a paralegal is answering phone calls and emails from concerned loved ones and caregivers. This column, “The Elder Law Askit Basket”, features some of the scenarios we hear on a frequent basis. If you have a question you’d like to see answered here, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a healthy 65-year-old woman, and I’ve been a hospital nurse for decades. Anyway, I have seen a lot of people die, and I have some pretty strong opinions regarding life support. What can I do to ensure my end-of-life wishes are fulfilled when the time comes?
What a great question. A lot of people don’t want to talk about dying, so I admire your candor.
First, I want to assure you that as long as you are of sound mind and you’re able to communicate your wishes, your doctor has a duty to honor them. However, if there comes a time that you’re unable to make your own medical decisions because of illness or injury, a Directive to Physicians can help your family and medical agent determine whether to give you life-sustaining treatment for a terminal or irreversible condition.
Most Directive to Physicians forms have two options: one is to withhold all life-sustaining treatment and allow the person to die as gently as possible, the other is to administer life-sustaining treatment, regardless of the terminal or irreversible condition. If you’re very elderly or you already have a bleak diagnosis, checking off one of these boxes may well suit your wishes.
Many people fear a long, drawn-out death so they default to the first option. The issue here is that sometimes doctors (just like lawyers) make mistakes. If a doctor makes an inaccurate diagnosis of a terminal or an irreversible condition and you’ve selected this option, there’s no going back. You might want to consider a third option we’ve recently added to our form—this option allows your medical agent to make the decision at the time it is needed.
I hope you’ve found my answer helpful. If you’d like to talk about this more, please call The Law Offices of Carol Bertsch, PC, and we’ll be happy to schedule an appointment for you to meet with Carol Bertsch or Ellen Patterson.