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Are 'heroic measures’ in your healthcare directive right for you?

An unexpected cardiac arrest, sudden illness or life-threatening accident can be the split second that changes the life you knew and a future you never planned for. When serious medical issues come up, and you and your loved ones are suddenly facing end-of-life care decisions, you may not fully understand just what these decisions entail.

A physician at Massachusetts General Hospital recently shared a compelling story about how end of life care can honestly look for a patient and their quality of life afterward. While healthcare directives and the idea of someone passing away will never be easy to think about or easy discussions to have, it is essential that you discuss them and have your wishes known.

What types of measures are right for you?

Some elements of a healthcare directive may be helpful to discuss with your family and your healthcare provider before decisions about your care plans.

  • What kind of quality of life would you have if you were resuscitated?
  • Is your healthcare directive updated, filed with a lawyer, and readily available in the event of an emergency?
  • Ask about the procedures and machines necessary for providing life after your heart or brain activity stops—decide for yourself if these are right for you.
  • Do you have a secondary plan in place if you are resuscitated, but conditions decline again?
  • What if your life is saved, but at a low-level quality of life?
  • If death would be painful and undignified, do you want to elect for less painful, more dignified medical options?
  • Determine what levels of disability and pain you could live with after an accident or illness.
  • Clearly explain your wishes to your caregiver or family members in the event you are not conscious.
  • Have your wishes legally backed up—caregivers often have a different idea about the care you would want to receive.

‘Heroic measures’ done in an attempt to save your life may or may not be right for you and the quality of life you want. Discuss these crucial elements with your family and doctor and be sure to legally get your care directive documents in place—before you ever need to use them.

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