Recently, I reviewed our wills that we had written years ago. Our kids have moved out and we are fifteen years older than when we wrote them. Our wills also include health care directives. I was intrigued rereading what I wrote so long ago. I stand by it still and here I share with you its key elements (with a few insignificant edits). I suggest you have one done and file it with your primary health care facility.
“Whenever I am unable to decide or speak for myself, my health care agent has the power to make any and all health care decisions for me, including the power to give, refuse or withdraw consent to any care, treatment, service or procedures, including deciding whether to stop or not start health care that is keeping me or might keep me alive.
“Ultimately, I am interested in my life continuing provided there is a reasonable probability that I will eventually return to leading a somewhat normal and productive life. But I am not interested in expensive or painful procedures that have little probability of returning me to a degree of normalcy. I am also concerned the impact my living or dying has on my wife and my children, and what their wishes may be. The critical point is that I do not want money and energy spent to keep me merely alive. I have loved my life but I have little fear of dying. I am primarily afraid of physical and emotional pain, and I do not want my last act on earth to be spending mine or my wife’s or anyone else’s money to keep me alive only for the sake of being alive. I especially do not want to be a burden to my family, financially, emotionally or otherwise.
“I have little tolerance for pain and do not want it, whether physical or emotional. An example of emotional pain would include consciousness but inability to communicate or move. Another would be living permanently in a group facility such as a nursing home.
“I do not believe that allowing death by omission is wrong. You are free to let me die or even help me die if that is appropriate.
“My life would no longer be worth living if I were an emotional or financial drain on my wife, children or society; if I could not live a reasonably productive life; if I could not basically take care of myself; if I were to spend the remainder of my life in a nursing facility; or if I were unconscious with little expectation of returning to a somewhat productive life.
“Standard medical treatments may be used to try to improve my medical condition or to prolong my life but they should be stopped if they do not help.
“If I had a reasonable chance of recovery where I return to being a somewhat normal and productive person, I would want reasonable efforts made to recover me. But if recovery means, for example, permanent blindness, loss of arms, permanent pain and other major disabilities, I do not want efforts made to prolong my life.
“If I were dying, I would want all efforts made to minimize pain and no efforts made to prolong my life. If I were permanently unconscious or otherwise completely dependent on others for my care, I would want to die as soon as possible.”
“I would like to die at home. I remember when our dog, Sam, was dying. Rather than putting him alone into a sterile medical facility full of tubes in an effort to extend his life a few days or weeks or months, he laid in the family room with us until he couldn’t eat or drink. Then we brought him to the vet where he was euthanized while my wife held him. I only wish that you treat me as well as she treated Sam.”