Are You Prepared? Living Wills and Other Advanced Directives

We’ve written previously about important healthcare documents everyone needs to have on file. The most important of these are your will, and in addition certain advance directives for your medical care. The need for these written directives often does not seem important when health is good. However, as health declines, it is smart to be prepared and to share your medical healthcare preferences in the event of a serious accident, hospitalization or continuing palliative care.

Today’s advanced and widespread use of medical technology has created the need for these advance directives. You may have seen a few of the numerous studies performed documenting deficits in medical care of the dying. Aggressive medical intervention leaves millions of Americans confined to nursing homes and over a million are left so medically weak that they survive only with feeding tubes. Your own circle of friends and relatives probably includes several families overcome with the financial burden of considerable medical costs. At least one “national study* shows some family members had to leave work, 31% lost “most of their savings” and 20% reported loss of their major source of income while handling these medical situations. Over the years as more Americans experienced the burdens and diminishing benefits of invasive and aggressive medical treatment in poor prognosis states either themselves or with a loved one, pressure began to mount to devise ways to avoid the suffering and costs associated with treatments the patient did not want. The first formal response was the living will.

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