Dec 1, 2010

Frontline tackles death and dying

Helping people create Advance Directives - living wills, health care powers of attorney and so on -- is a big part of my Florida Elder Law Practice. It requires courage for clients to ponder what kinds of treatments they want if they are not able to speak for themselves. They do so not only out of concern for themselves, but for their loved ones. By documenting their wishes, my clients hope to ease the burden of loved ones who may be called upon to make their health care decisions. These documents can also head off family conflicts that tend to arise when loved ones differ over "What Mom really wanted."

One advance directive, the Living Will, is widely misunderstood. It is not just a "pull the plug" document. It has to be carefully crafted to document your wishes. Maybe you are someone who wants everything and anything to prolong life. Maybe you want only palliative care. Maybe, with the range of life-prolonging technologies available today like feeding tubes, artificial respirators and resuscitative techniques, you would accept some, but reject others.

Few decisions are as challenging and personal. A new Public Broadcasting series, Facing Death, gets up close with patients, families and physicians dealing with end-of-life decisions. The program shows us how others deal with these situations, and may even help to clarify your own thoughts about what you'd like if you are ever in that situation. I also highly recommend that you look at the readers' comments at the bottom of the page, which are thought-provoking and enlightening, too.

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