When Michael Schumacher hit his head in a tragic skiing accident in December 2013 he suffered serious head injuries which left him in a medically induced coma. This kind of unforeseen accident is exactly what leads us to start thinking about what medical treatment any one of us would prefer in situations such as these.
Without doubt we all think about ‘what would happen if?’ fleetingly at some point or another. We may even discuss it with friends and family, half joking that they need to remember how we want to be treated should our own medical decisions be something we can no longer take.
There is no time like the present to do something constructive about this. Finding out exactly what to do however can be a challenge. In this two part blog we will be discussing the best course of action to ensure your wishes are fulfilled, starting with establishing an Advance Directive to be kept with your medical file.
So what are Advance Directives?
Advance Directives are clear instructions left by an individual on what treatments they want in case they are in a life threatening condition.
If someone has a heart attack and his heart stops, if the person has left clear instructions that he does not want to be resuscitated (DNR) it has to be respected no matter what the situation is.
It also covers decisions about treatments. It gives detailed information from their doctors regarding various health topics and how to improve their quality of life should something happen to them. From serious illnesses and life threatening situations such as a stroke, lung failure, dementia through to accidents.
Who will speak for them?
An Advance Directive states clearly what the patient wants in terms of their medical condition or to whom they have given power of attorney, the person who can also make decisions for them.
It is important to have an Advance Directive document on file with your medical records which acts as an important healthcare tool.
In filling a form there are different sections which cover different topics. You will come across topics such as:
- Power of attorney for health care – Someone who is allowed to make decision on your behalf when you no longer can.
- Living trust – I want the life sustaining treatments or I do not want life-sustaining treatment.
- Wishes if you have a terminal condition – I do not want artificial nutrition and hydration.
- Wishes if you are in a persistent vegetative state – I want to be kept free of pain even if such care prolongs or shortens my life.
- Organ donations – I want to donate all my organs and tissues.
- Autopsy – I do not want an autopsy.
- And so on..
Filling out the actual form is quite straightforward. Doctors and nurses can work together with patients and their families to agree on a suitable plan that not only caters to the medical needs of the patient but also takes their values and preferences into account.
Once the form is complete you should take copies. One copy should be kept in your medical file but you can also keep a hard or soft copy for yourself or a trusted family member or spouse.
Next week we will go into further detail regarding setting up Advanced Directives. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us.