Most of us are not going to even consider euthanasia or physician assisted suicide! So, do we have any real concerns for our end of life care, or that of our parents and families?
There are two main concerns: making sure that your desires for the end of your life are known and respected by your family and your hospital, and that your life is not snuffed out in an untimely and unwanted manner.
Having an appropriate, carefully drafted advance directive (of the right type) is the only way to be certain that the person you want to make decisions for you will have the authority to protect you.
All of us may be “of sound mind” right now, but if we are in an accident, or have a stroke, we may not be capable of making our own decisions. About 40 states do allow the spouse or family members to make decisions, but if we happen to be in other states, even at the time we are incapacitated, we are under the rules of that state.
Besides this, family members may not agree on how a person should be cared for at this time. Without having a carefully spelled out directive ahead of time, much heart-break may occur.
What are some ways in which patients could be in danger?
A major problem is that in most states, it is now imbedded in law that food and water are considered “medical treatment”. Most of us think of food and water as basic, necessary care, just like basic hygiene & warmth. Without food and water, no matter how strong and healthy a person may be, that person will die eventually, in a painful and cruel way.
Listen to this quote from 1983:
Daniel Callahan [then the director of the Hastings Center] was reflecting on the possible outcome of the "food and fluids debate" that was just getting underway. He wrote that "…a denial of nutrition, may, in the long run, become the only effective way to make certain that a large number of biologically tenacious patients actually die." He further predicted, "Given the increasingly large pool of superannuated, chronically ill, physically marginal elderly, it could well become the nontreatment of choice."
A rather chilling thought, but one that has taken deep root in the minds and hearts of many health care professionals.
As you can see, this is why it is so important to clearly spell out exactly what you want to happen to you if you should be incapacitated.
The right type of Advance Directive is crucial!!
What are the types of Advance Directives?
The two main types of Advance Directives are Living Wills and Durable Power of Attorney.
The International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force has The Protective Medical Decisions Document (PMDD)
The PMDD is a carefully drafted durable power of attorney for health care that has been designed to meet state requirements and to protect the signer.
It limits your health agent's authority in only one specific way, clearly stating that your agent does not have the authority to approve the direct and intentional ending of your life. For example, your agent may not authorize that you be given a lethal injection or an intentional drug overdose. Furthermore, your agent may not direct that you be denied food or fluids for the purpose of causing your death by starvation or dehydration.
American Life League offers the Loving Will
National Rt to Life offers the Will to Live
Removing food and water because the person is considered burdensome or "better off dead" is legally permitted.
Ethically, it is a way of killing the person – directly, intentionally, and cruelly.
Morally, we do not have the right to kill; but legally it is happening every day. I receive email messages telling me about this, and asking what they should do. Don’t wait until you are in the midst of this!! Take action now!
Can a person be required to sign a Living Will?
Most hospitals offer Living Wills, but these are not considered to safeguard your health and you should not be encouraged to sign one. No one is required to sign one upon entering the hospital; do not allow anyone to pressure you into signing this type of living will.
You cannot be compelled to have an advance directive.
If you or a loved one are told that an advance directive must be signed before care and treatment can be given, courteously but firmly explain that such a requirement is a violation of federal law.
Who needs an advance directive?
Many people assume that only the sick and elderly need advance directives. But few people are aware that a carefully drafted durable power of attorney for health care is vital for every adult – young or old, healthy or sick, disabled or able-bodied.
What would you tell the public in Conclusion about End Of Life Decisions and Advance Directives?
Assisted-suicide advocates are promoting their agenda in the name of "personal choice," while many "ethicists" and "experts" are attempting to limit medical treatment or care even to the point of starvation and dehydration – even against the patient or patient's decision-maker requests.
SO it is very important for ALL of us to:
o Be informed about legal and political developments.
o Actively oppose assisted suicide and euthanasia.
o Actively support patients' rights.
o Protect yourself by signing a protective durable power of attorney for health care like the ITF's Protective Medical Decisions Document.
o Let others know about the need to sign such a document.
o Do not be intimidated by healthcare providers and ethics committees who may pressure you to accept their decisions.
o Know your rights if there is a dispute over your medical care or that of a person for whom you are the designated decision-maker.
This is the only way to make certain that a patient's right to receive treatment and care are honored.
If you still run into problems, contact The International Task Force and your lawyer immediately.
[adapted from Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide & Health Care Decisions: Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones by Rita L. Marker, www.internationaltaskforce.org]