Health Care Directives for Incapacity

Everyone dies; even doctors. One difference between doctors and the rest of us is that doctors, despite knowing all their options and being in the best position to obtain virtually any kind of medical care they require, often prefer to receive little treatment in the end.

A recent Wall Street Journal article titled, Why Doctors Die Differently, discusses how doctors ensure that when their time comes, “no heroic measures” are taken. Knowing the limits of modern medicine, they choose instead to enjoy their last days to the fullest, with little or no medication, culminating with a gentle death surrounded by family. In contrast, many patients still undergo the treatments that require frequent visits to the hospital and expensive medication, which typically lead to poor quality of life.

Certainly no one can control death. With advanced health care directives, however, patients can now take a cue from their doctors and plan for a “good death.” Nursing professor Karen Kehl ranked the attributes of a good death, which include “being in control, being comfortable, sense of closure, leaving a legacy, and family care.”

Written advance health care directives enable patients to dictate the steps that should (or should not) be done when they are incapacitated. With the right tools and proper expectations, every American can do as their doctors do and “go gently into that good night.”

(Image courtesy of Lee J Haywood)