By Elder Care Attorney Rick Law. Founder of the Estate Planning Center at Law Elder Law in Western Chicagoland, Illinois. A 2008 study reviewed life-sustaining-treatment decisions that occurred between hospital medical staff and their patients and/or their health-care agents under advance directives. The conclusion of the study is frightening. “Despite patients’ wishes, the indiscriminate use of technology and the lack of communication between patients and health care providers have been shown to result in unnecessary pain and suffering for patients.” (FM Pieracci, Prospective Analysis of Life-Sustaining Therapy Discussions in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit: A Housestaff Perspective (2008).) Additionally, according to the study, the medical costs of prolonging a dying patient’s life via artificial ventilation and intensive care often range between $11,000 and $36,000. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent “wrongful resuscitation” from happening. An experienced Elder Law attorney may be able to help you with the following:
- Create a written advance directive such as a health-care power of attorney, living will, and/or a DNR in appropriate circumstances;
- Insist that the advance directives are placed in your medical records and that the physician is well aware of the existence of such documents;
- Advise you through “the talk” with family and the doctor to make sure that everyone is very aware of the your feelings regarding life-sustaining treatment in the event there is no hope of recovery; and
- Choosing an “advocate” as the health-care power of attorney and/or surrogate decision maker.