Sooner or later, we all receive the diagnosis, the diagnosis which tells us that life is drawing to a close. We cannot change the fact that we die. But we can determine how and where we die.
Do Not Resuscitate Order
If we want to die at home, we can ask our doctor for an Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order, posting it on the refrigerator for EMS to see if they are called and even wearing a yellow bracelet alerting them to our wishes.
We can sign an Advance Directive. What extreme measures do you want taken in the last months of life, if any? Surprisingly, people who receive palliative care, focused on comfort, not cure, actually live longer.
Other Directive Measures
If you do want extreme measures, state specifically what you do and do not want. Ventilation? Tube feeding? Artificial hydration? CPR?
CPR has saved the lives of countless middle-aged people experiencing a heart attack – out of the hospital. For people in their 80s and older who are already hospitalized, it has caused unfathomable pain. Out of 100 such people given CPR, only 3 survive to leave the hospital, and only one without brain damage. Most die within a week.
Have Family and Doctor on board
It is important to have your family – and your doctor – on board. Compassion & Choices reports that half of ICU nurses and one quarter of ICU doctors have considered quitting caring for ICU patients because they have been required to use techniques and technology which did not change their patient’s outcome and caused them more suffering.
Provide Directives to Family Members, Doctors and Hospitals
Make sure family members as well as your doctor and any hospital or other facility has a copy of your Advance Directive. Sally Jordan had an Advance Directive stating that she wanted to die comfortable without painful, unwanted medical treatment. Her healthcare providers did not follow it. After over 10 days of needless anguish, agony and torment, she finally died. A lawsuit is being brought. While it may be a “heads up” for healthcare providers, it cannot relieve Sally Jordan’s suffering.
Further Reading: Sally Jordan’s Needless Suffering
Terry Garrett is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.
She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.