Deciding on medical issues can be difficult, especially when it involves emergencies or you are unable to discuss what you want to be done.
- In most situations, you are able to talk to your physician, discuss what issues have come up, contemplate treatment options, and make what decisions you see fit. During the decision process, you are able to evaluate how healthy you are, the kind of life you can lead, where your health can go, what treatment and lifestyle choices are available, and what those choices can give you in terms of payoffs and risks.
- However, in some situations, your ability to decide on treatments are severely limited. If you are having a medical emergency, such as a stroke or a heart attack, you and the people around you have to make a decision very quickly in order to be able to survive the emergency and minimize damage. Sometimes, you can’t make the decision yourself. You might be in a coma, in too much pain to be able to properly think about your choices, or otherwise communicate what you want done. How can you let people know what you are willing to have done on you?
This is where an Advance Directive is important. The form will look different and have different questions depending on the hospital or physician but all are asking essentially the same thing:
- Do you want CPR to be done?
- Do you want artificial breathing to be done?
- Do you want artificial feeding to be done?
- Who do you want to make medical decisions for you?
Depending on what is happening to you, any number of medical procedures and treatments might be necessary to treat your condition. They may or may not work. It may not always be possible to bring you back to the quality of life you had before the incident or even to the point of being able to eat or breathe on your own. You might be left in a coma.
Having a discussion concerning these topics with your physician and your loved ones is important while everyone is able to voice their questions and desires.
Your physician will be able to tell you how each intervention will affect you, the chances of recovery, and the quality of life you are likely to have. The physician can also direct you to what forms are necessary and how to fill them out according to what you desire.
O’Sullivan R, Mailo K, Angeles R, Argawal G. Advance directives Survey of primary care patients. Canadian Family Physician. 2015;61:353-356.
Peicius E, Blazeviciene A, Kaminskas R. Are advance directives helpful for good end of life decision making: a cross sectional survey of health professionals. BMC Med Ethics. 2017;18(1). doi:10.1186/s12910-017-0197-6