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Why should I talk to my doctor about an advance directive?

Barbara Coombs Lee
Hospice Nursing
Experts on advance directives have stressed the importance of discussing end-of-life options before patients and families become vulnerable in a crisis. With a chance to plan with their personal physician, some patients might decide, if they become terminally ill or permanently unconscious, they’ll want a peaceful death with as little intervention as possible. Others will decide to utilize every kind of life-sustaining therapy as long as medically possible. The conversation protects either decision. These conversations empower patients and make sure that their wishes are heard.

Most people believe individuals themselves are the best decision makers when it comes to these very personal, private healthcare choices. Reenforcing your decision by discussing it with your doctor makes it more likely your wishes will prevail. Solid research shows that people who talk with their doctor about end-of-life wishes are more likely to have those wishes honored and more likely to experience a peaceful, pain-free death when the time comes.

Even patients with a living will benefit from consulting with their personal physician. Laws vary from state to state. Having specific documents in order may be necessary to make sure your wishes are carried out and that the loved one you choose is empowered to act on your behalf.

When seniors tell their doctor what treatments they would want or not want in a given situation, they protect their families from struggles over decisions about life-sustaining treatment if they became unable to speak for themselves. 
Having discussions about what treatments you would or would not choose and completing your advance medical directives before a crisis arises can give peace of mind to you and your family. Later on, having advance medical directives can help reduce anguish, stress, conflict, and potential legal disputes associated with medical treatment decisions made on your behalf if you can't communicate with doctors.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.