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What should I consider in planning for end of life care?

Few people like to think about what will happen to them if they become incapacitated as the result of an accident or becoming elderly. However, if you are a California resident with definite ideas about what types of care you would and would not want in such a situation, the California Probate Court allows you to make an advance health care directive fully expressing your wishes.

One of the benefits of making an advance health care directive is that you not only can choose the type of care you desire if and when the time comes, but you also can designate the person you want to carry out your wishes should you be unable to express them yourself. This agent may not be the owner or employee of any community or residential care facility where you are receiving care. Nor can he or she be the supervisor or employee of any health care institution where you are receiving care. The only exception to this prohibition is if your chosen agent is someone who is either related to you or is one of your coworkers. You may also wish to designate an alternate agent should your primary choice be unable or unwilling to carry out your wishes when the need arises.

Prolonging life

One of the most important things for you to consider when planning your end of life care is whether and to what extent you want your life prolonged. Some people desire that their life be prolonged as long as possible within the limits of accepted standards of medical care. Others desire that their lives not be prolonged under certain circumstances that might include the following:

  • Unconsciousness with the reasonable medical expectation that it will continue indefinitely
  • An incurable irreversible condition that will cause death within a reasonably short period
  • Treatment risks and burdens that outweigh expected benefits

Alleviating pain

If you are like most people, experiencing pain is one of your biggest fears. You may wish to state in your advance health care directive that you want your doctors and other health care professionals to give you whatever drugs are necessary to alleviate your pain, even if the drugs could hasten your death.

There are many additional things for you to consider, such as whether or not you want various tests or surgeries, CPR, artificial nutrition and hydration, and/or your organs donated after your death. This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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