Do your loved ones know your last wishes? More importantly are your last wishes documented?
I’ve been closely following the terrible saga of Marlise Munoz in Fort Worth, Texas, over the past few weeks but I refrained from commenting until the situation was resolved. As a little background, Marlise was a 33-year-old pregnant paramedic who was declared brain-dead on November 26, 2013. Her family had requested that life support be removed but a Texas law prohibited withdrawal of life-sustaining equipment from a pregnant patient. On Friday, January 24, 2014, a Texas judge ruled that the hospital caring for Marlise should honor the families wishes and remove life support. It was also determined that the fetus was not viable and Marlise’s condition would prevent the baby from being carried to term.
The entire situation is a medical ethics debate worthy of more time than I’ll spend on this blog and I make it a point not to get involved in those types of conversations on this site, that’s not the purpose. My hope is to get you to think. There are questions about last wishes and pro-life versus pro-choice that deserve to be talked about and as you can imagine those issues are very polarizing so as I said, that’s not what this is about.
What this is about is you. Have you shared with your loved ones your last wishes? Do your loved ones clearly understand what you would want to have done should you be in a situation where decision must be made about sustaining or discontinuing life saving measures? More importantly, do you know the wishes of those you love? Have you had conversations with your spouse or parent about their wishes so that you can honor their wishes in the event that something terrible or tragic happens to them?
Do you have an advanced directive? If not, please consider completing one. Think about the guilt your family will feel if they have to make a decision and they’re unsure of what you’d want. Think about the guilt you’d feel if you had to make a decision not knowing exactly what someone you’d love would want in a similar situation.
Discussions about death are never easy and that’s because none of us want to acknowledge that it’s imminent. The old saying “there are only two things guaranteed in this world – death and taxes” is true. Please be sure your loved ones understand your desires and be sure you understand theirs. It only takes a few minutes but it can prevent a lifetime of guilt.