Florida Today’s recent article entitled “As COVID-19 spreads, are your end-of-life directives in order?” explains that the Conversation Project surveyed Americans about the need for end-of-life care and end-of-decisions. About 92% of respondents thought it important to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care and 95% of them are willing to talk about these wishes. However, just 32% have actually gone ahead and had the discussion.
With the threat of COVID-19, there’s a sudden urgency to engaging in discussions of end-of-life treatment. Although the young and healthy are more apt to fight through the illness, the elderly and the infirm are not likely to survive, despite using a ventilator. It’s hard to put someone on a ventilator and even harder to have it removed, when there’s no chance of recovery.
For example, if you didn’t have a healthcare directive and you ended up on a ventilator—but that wasn’t what you wanted—you could live a long time in a nursing home with a very poor quality of life. Without an advance directive and if you’re not able to speak for yourself and haven’t named an agent, the state will appoint a guardian to make these critical decisions. This will be a person who knows nothing about you but will have the authority to make decisions about your health and well-being. If your family is found, and they disagree with the guardian, it can be a big problem.
Name someone who can speak for you, when you can no longer do so. Tell them your wishes for end-of-life care. Your agent will need to make tough, quick decisions on your behalf. The next step is to complete a health care proxy or power of attorney. This is a legal document in which you appoint the person to be your agent, when health care decisions need to be made and you can’t speak for yourself.
You should have your attorney prepare an advance directive or living will. This is another legal document that states your wishes regarding end-of-life medical care and delineates treatments you do or not want.
Give your agent a copy of your living will. You should also give a copy to your primary care physician and to anyone else you think should have it. Keep a copy available for yourself. Let your family know where the document can be located.
Your advance directives should provide instructions on DNR (“do not resuscitate”) and the use of a ventilator or tube feeding, hospice and palliative care and organ donation. It’s not a pleasant topic, but the time to discuss it is before you’re headed for the hospital.
Ask an experienced estate planning attorney about a complete plan.
Reference: Florida Today (April 14, 2020) “As COVID-19 spreads, are your end-of-life directives in order?”