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Research Shows Some Misunderstanding Among Physicians Regarding End-Of-Life Directives

Struggling with the meaning of life is one thing. Struggling with the meaning of end-of-life directives shouldn’t be.

Physicians misidentify living wills as do-not-resuscitate (DNR) designations and DNR orders as end-of-life care directives, concluded a study. Adding code status designations to a standard advanced directive can ensure that patients receive or do not receive the care they want.

The study, “TRIAD III: Nationwide Assessment of Living Wills and Do Not Resuscitate Orders,” appeared in the Dec. 5 issue of The Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Researchers Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Hospitalist*

Death Planning

There’s a case for killing Granny?  I guess so, or at least according to Evan Thomas’ article in the most recent Newsweek. Thomas, after sharing the story of his mother’s last days, concludes that death is the key to health care reform:

Until Americans learn to contemplate death as more than a scientific challenge to be overcome, our health care system will remain unfixable.

Does everything need to have a political spin on it nowadays?

But let’s take Thomas’ advice and talk about death.  Not “death panels,” not the politics or the cost of end-of-life care.  Just plain old death.

I was reminded recently of how fragile life is.  It made me remember something I read after our oldest child was born.  I realized that one day she would learn the truth about death.  And I thought how bad that was, and how I wanted to protect her from it.  But then, by chance, I happened across this interesting little saying.

When your children are young, all you think about is that you don’t want them to die.  But when they get older, all they think about is that they don’t want you to die.

It touched me, and it made me think about how my responsibility to protect my children extended even unto and beyond my own death.

It’s a nice philosophical point, but there are very practical things each of us can do to fulfill this responsibility.  Here is my list of just a few of the very important things we all should do to plan for our deaths:

Buy life insurance

If you’re young and in reasonably good health you should be able to buy a term life insurance policy for a few hundred dollars a year.  You should do this so your family can have your earning potential replaced in the event of your death.  Find a good insurance broker and make sure you get coverage that suits your needs.  Even if you have a pre-existing condition (like a chronic illness) a good broker should be able to find you some kind of coverage.  You won’t be able to buy any coverage at all if you become acutely ill, so don’t wait until it’s too late.

Make a will

This is so much more than just planning for your family’s financial future.  For example, if you have children, have you figured out who will take care of them if both you and your spouse die?  There are many important and potentially difficult conversations that go along with this kind of planning – but you’re much better off having them now.  After you die, those left behind will end up fighting out these issues not knowing your wishes.  Find a good lawyer to help you.

Make an advance directive

You need to think about what kind of medical care you want if you become incapacitated and unable to decide on your own.  Do you want to live for 30 years on a ventilator, unconscious?  Do you want to undergo extensive and painful treatments if you don’t have much hope of a meaningful recovery?  Don’t leave your family alone trying to make that decision for you, wondering what you would have wanted. Write down what your wishes are.

Appoint a health care proxy

Pick someone who you trust to make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.  Write it down and make clear what you want that person to do, so if the time comes there isn’t any dispute among your family as to who is in charge.

There are many other things you can do, but to me these are four of what I think are the most important things you can do to prepare for your death.  Maybe some commenters can add some more that I missed.

Now, with all that said and done, I will still disappoint Mr. Thomas.

Why?  Because I still prefer to think of death as a scientific challenge to be overcome.  And you know, I’m glad that many other people feel that way, too.

Especially the people who make medical breakthroughs – I’m really glad they feel that way.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

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