Here’s a scary statistic: Fifty percent of you reading this article will be unable to make your own health care decisions one day. Who will be making these decisions for you? Do they know your wishes? There might even be someone who you do not want speaking for you.
This is the week to gain clarity on these issues: National Healthcare Decisions Week (April 16-22). It reminds us to make our healthcare wishes known and to get them in writing.
Here are three key health care decisions you need to consider:
1. Who would you want to speak for you, if you become unable to speak for yourself? (Good idea to name two people just in case.)
2. Would you want artificial life support measures if you became terminally ill or enter into a permanent vegetative state?
3. Where do you want to be when you take your last breath? The vast majority of Americans say that they want to die in their own homes. However, most of us actually die in medical institutions.
Now that you have made these very important decisions, they must be written down. Here is the link to the State of Maine Advanced Directive Form:
More importantly, these written decisions must be shared. A living will stored in a safety deposit box is of no use to me if I’m your physician. I need a copy of it to honor it, and the people you designate should have a copy. Further, you should have a “sit-down” conversation with those you have chosen to be your voice if you are unable to speak your own wishes. They need to hear your choices directly from you.
This is not just any week of the year. It is a week to finally get clear, because your decisions matter.
Mary Harkins Becker, M.D.
palliative medicine specialist, Maine Medical Center