An advance directive for medical care is how we make our wishes known to our family and healthcare providers if we become too ill to speak for ourselves. Let me mention some medical circumstances that having an advanced directive from the patient is helpful and beneficial.
If you get in a terrible car accident or have a bad stroke or if you hit your head because of a fall and suddenly you are unconscious, unresponsive, and brain dead. The hospital can put a tube into your lungs through your mouth to help you breath, and they can help regulate your blood pressure with medicine to keep your heart beating.
However, while you’re out of it, unaware, and lifeless, your family is looking upon your body wondering if you’re ever coming back. At some point the physician may inform the family that they’ve exhausted every option they have and what you see with the patient is the best you’ll get.
Sometimes the medical focus has to shift from trying to find a cure to providing comfort. The big decision for the family then becomes to keep the patient alive as they are or to withdraw the machines and let God’s will take its course.
An advanced directive tells the family what the patient would want. It is simply a way to let one’s loved-ones know what choice to make on their behalf. The directive is something written down on paper or expressed in a conversation. The decision will still be made by the family, mainly the next of kin, like spouse or if there is no spouse, then the decision falls to the biological children.
Some questions that your advance directive must answer are:
- If you become unresponsive or brain dead, do you want to be kept alive by machines?
- If you become unresponsive or brain dead, do you want CPR if your heart stops?
- If you become unresponsive or brain dead, do you want the physician to proceed with comfort measures?
There are forms available to fill-out one’s advance directive and you can always find them by an internet search or from a hospital. States may have different laws that apply so it may be wise to do a little research in regard to any requirements.
Having the patient’s wishes written down or at least knowing them from having had a conversation about it, makes this decision easier because you are really making them on their behalf.
If you would like to read more on this topic, please see my post CPR, DNR, and Letting Go, where I deal with the spiritual perspective to these medical decisions.