Personal Wishes For Health Care: Have You Put Yours In Writing?

  • One thing I preach about, but have yet to practice, is making a living will. I did it once, but then life events made it null and void, and I've yet to do a new one. I intend to do it soon, however, and I think I'll go with the "Five Wishes" document available on for the format. I may move on to an attorney, but this is a good place to begin.

    The Aging With Dignity site makes the document available for as little as five dollars. It costs even less for groups. The rates are on the site.

    To me, the introductory statement on their site says it all:

    "Something is terribly wrong: The majority of Americans want to die at home surrounded by family and friends, but most end up dying in the hospital or nursing home, cared for by strangers. Half of Americans die in pain that could have been treated. Sick people have come to fear losing their dignity or burdening their families more than they fear death. And this is all happening in a country that is meant to prize the rights of individuals and champion respect for personal wishes."
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    Personal wishes. That is what we are talking about when we look at a living will. Making known your personal wishes for your treatment in case you can’t answer for yourself.

    One thing you must remember. No matter how good the format is; no matter how detailed your writing; no matter how strong your feelings - if you don't let people know you have this living will and have copies put in your medical files and places where your spouse and children can find one quickly, it won't do you any good. A carefully drawn-up living will, carefully place in a secure box, will do no good. You may as well not bother, because it won't be found until after it is needed.

    So make out a living will. Perhaps check out the "Five Wishes" format to see if you would like to go that route. Or see an attorney. But take action. Give it serious thought. Fill it out. And get copies in all the right places. Then you can move on to a durable power of attorney for health care and a durable power of attorney for financial affairs and a will for your possessions and - well, it goes on and on.

    At least get started. You'll be a step ahead of me. Or maybe not. I'm logging onto right now....

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Published On: January 22, 2007