Handbook for Mortals : Planning Ahead : Why should I make plans now?

Discussions about what kinds of treatment you want at the end of life are likely to be most useful if you plan long before decisions have to be made. You might call this "what if?" planning. What if I should become too sick to eat except through a tube? What if my doctors say I will have only a short time to live? Picture of a dying man in bed with a man friend What if I canít talk or write or signal my thoughts? Who do I trust to make important treatment decisions for me? This what if? planning, though uncomfortable at first, will help you feel more in control. It also can be a very special gift to family and loved ones, who can be spared the burden of making choices without knowing what is most important to you.

Many of the choices you will make about the end of life will involve medical treatments. But these decisions are not likely to be the most important ones. Your ideas and hopes about the end of your life - being with your family, or making peace with God, for example - are the more meaningful ones. Your values and beliefs should guide medical choices whenever possible - not the other way around.

One way to approach these kinds of choices is to consider the questions on a values history questionnaire.

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Keywords: Advance care planning
Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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