Many people wait too long to create advance health directives and designate a health care surrogate, and the results can be tragic. A recent article, by a physician who is also a financial planner, illustrates a not-uncommon situation that nobody wants to find themselves in.
The story begins with a woman suddenly becoming acutely ill and uncommunicative. She’s rushed to the emergency room by ambulance, while her partner scrambles to get to the hospital. The patient’s condition quickly worsens. By the time her partner arrives, it has been determined that the patient will need to be placed on a ventilator, or she’ll die. But her death appears to be inevitable, so this will only prolong her time in a hospital bed.
Who is going to make that decision?
The partner had been designated as the patient’s health care surrogate, but in this case, couldn’t remember how to find the documentation. The woman, unconscious in the hospital, had been adamant in her conversations about advance directives—which serve as a record of someone’s health preferences—that if she had a serious health event that was going to kill her, she wanted to be kept comfortable and have as peaceful a death as possible. Her partner had participated in these meetings, had been named the health care surrogate, and had been involved in drawing up the advance directive....