Why You Need An Advance Directive for Medical Care

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By Brenda M. Hook

“I need to know your decision..”

My thoughts went to my brother and I playing hide and seek at my parents house. We always had so much fun,and we were not just close in age (13 months to the day), we did everything together growing up. He protected me. He…

“Ms. Hook..I NEED TO KNOW YOUR DECISION. We don’t have a lot of time.”

This was not a decision that a sister should have to make for her brother but it was up to me to decide. Should I try to save him or let him die?

This is the decision I was faced with when 2 weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to take my brother off of life support or have him transported to another hospital for tests and a subsequent operation to remove a blood clot from his aorta.

“Who the hell am I to decide such a thing?” I wondered out loud.

“You’re his sister,” the doctor replied.

“Do you know if my brother had an advance directive,” I asked my aunt.

“No,” my aunt replied quietly. “He didn’t.”

If only he did.

If he had an advance directive in place, a simple form that explains what type of care you want in the case of a medical emergency when death is imminent and you are unable to express your wishes, it would have relieved me of this monstrous decision. It legally takes the guess work, guilt and stress away from your loved ones by allowing you to express your decisions to health care professionals and family ahead of time if you are faced with an illness that you are unlikely to recover from.

Advance directives usually tell your doctor that you don’t want treatment in certain circumstances, or that you want a certain treatment regardless of how ill you are.

An advance directive is a specific guidelines that express how you feel about care intended to sustain life. You can choose to accept or refuse medical care.

Some of the issues that your directive needs to address are:

  • The use of dialysis or respirator
  • If you want to be resuscitated if breathing or heartbeat stops (DNR order)
  • Nourishment and fluids
  • Organ or tissue donation

Anyone that is at least 18 years of age can draw up an Advance Directive, but you should be aware of the laws that apply to your state. Once you are satisfied with your Directive, it should be notarized and a copy given to your doctor and to your family. You may change or cancel your directive at any time, as long as you are mentally capable of making that decision. Changes can be made in writing or at the hospital.

Please don’t put someone that you love in the position that I was in. Make your wishes known. You don’t have to be old, or sick to have a Directive. My brother was 44 years old at the time of his death, and I believe in my heart that I did the right thing for him. But sometimes, I still wonder.

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