Essential Conversations

Last month we focused on “Angry in Anaheim,” a Dear Amy letter. The “Angry” author was furious with her brother for “tearing the family apart” by insisting the doctors follow dad’s “do not resuscitate” instructions in his advance directive. She wanted the doctors to listen to mom and keep dad alive.

Angry’s letter raised two big issues: 1. By creating an advance directive, dad took this decision out of his family’s hands; the doctors were legally obligated to follow dad’s instructions. 2. Much of the family’s conflict could have been avoided if dad would have had a candid conversation about his advance directive and what it meant.

While this can be can be a difficult conversation, it is an essential one to have.

If you have created an advance directive it is crucial that family and friends are aware of it and understand it. They need to understand that you have a legally binding document that appoints a health care representative and provides health care instructions in the event that you are unable to make these decisions yourself.

I suggest that you bring loved ones into the conversation before creating your advance directive. The advance directive requires big decisions, and it is so helpful to mull over these decisions with those who know you best. Engaging your loved ones in the decision-making process can help you determine what you truly want for yourself, and can also ensure that your loved ones better understand what you want at the end of life.

You should discuss the following questions in advance of creating your advance directive:

  • If I stopped breathing, would I want to be revived through CPR?
  • What if I am in a persistent vegetative state? Would I want to prolong my life through tube feeding or a breathing machine?
  • What if I had dementia? What kind of medical treatments or assistance do I want to be given to me if I couldn’t decide?
  • If I had an incurable illness, what measures would I want to be taken to manage my pain?
  • Would I want hospice or hospital care?
  • Who would I want to act as my health care representative, advocating for me and making decisions on my behalf if I am unable to?

Start this conversation. Have it with yourself, have it with your loved ones. Reflect on what is important. Make your plans. Serve as your own steward to make your wishes known. If you need help starting this conversation, I can help you. Oregon Health Decisions is a non-profit organization that also has some great tools to get these discussions going: www.oregonhealthdecisions.org/.

Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for twenty-five years, specializing in estate planning and administration, family law and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.