Anyone who has read or watched the news knows about the tragedy of Terri Schiavo. This case highlights the fact that, no matter how old you are, tragedy can strike, and it's important that you have clearly outlined your medical wishes in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to speak for yourself. How do you want your care to be handled at the end of your life? Your loved ones need to know. Although these are not easy discussions, it is important to address them. Your Advance Directive communicates your wishes.
There are two parts to the Advance Directive: The living will lists medical procedures that you do or do not want under certain circumstances. The health care proxy names the person whom you authorize to make sure medical personnel carry out your wishes. These forms are available through your doctor, hospital, and nursing home. The Massachusetts Medical Society also has a model health care proxy on its website.
To ensure you have a comprehensive Advance Directive in place, the Central Massachusetts Partnership to Improve Care at the End of Life recommends the following:
- Think about your end-of-life wishes and share these with your family
- Choose a health care agent and an alternate
- Discuss your wishes with your agent, alternate, doctors, spiritual advisor, family and attorney
- Complete the Massachusetts Health Care Proxy (two non-agent witnesses must be present)
- Complete your statement of wishes (living will)
- Give copies of the proxy and living will to your agent, alternate, doctors, spiritual advisor, family and attorney
- Review and update the forms as needed
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.