To make an Advanced Health Directive has been on my mind for about a year, but I’ve put it off, for no good reason.
Making decisions about what care I’d like at the end of my life seemed to make very good sense but thinking and talking about it took courage. I guess no one likes to think about their death.
As my favourite cardiologist says, ‘Old people die, Maureen. It’s what we can all expect.’
Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed the deaths of friends. I haven’t like what I’ve seen. Previously, they’d made wills, donated their Enduring Powers of Attorney and appointed Guardians to make decisions about how they lived. But they failed to provide instructions for their end of life care.
I watched as they struggled with long term, chronic illnesses that severely disrupted their lives. Their quality of life deteriorated. They were no longer capable of making decisions for themselves. In their last few weeks before they died, they were subjected to surgery or resuscitation following cardiac arrests and some had several admissions to the intensive care units of teaching hospitals.
Some of us would think of such treatment at the end of one’s existence as futile. Through such treatment lives may be prolonged, but the quality of life can deteriorate dramatically. Futile treatments prolong the distress of those who witness it, as well as creating an additional burden on the health system. I do not want either of those to happen.
Without written, signed legal instructions from the dying person, Legal Guardians and family members cannot direct doctors and nurses to stop treating their loved ones.
I really don’t want my life prolonged when I am dying, nor would I contemplate euthanasia. Assisted suicide is not my idea of a good death.
There is now a legal document which spells out my wishes if I am unable to make my own decisions about futile treatment. I would, however, expect to receive palliative care and to be kept comfortable.
Perhaps I could have included my directive in My Health Record, although I opted out of that. You can read why in my blog here.
Process for preparing an Advanced Health Directive
I took advantage of the MyValues website and completed the easy questionnaire about end-of-life decisions. This helped me to sort out emotional issues and clarify my values. It took about twenty minutes to complete. I printed the resulting document and attached it to my Advanced Health Directive. It helps to clarify what I have written.
The Advanced Health Directive form is available at Australian Post Office shops and some newsagencies, or it can be downloaded from the internet.
I also spoke with my daughter and son-in-law, a doctor, before completing my Directive.
Now that I’ve written my wishes, I feel liberated and confident that my plan will be accepted and acted on if needed.
And, for light relief after that, here’s a poem written by Arthur Hugh Clough in the 19th Century. The quotation at the top of this blog comes from this sarcastic poem, which is based on the Ten Commandments.