So my family has been struggling with a series of health issues, most recently a very sick relative who is hanging on by a very thin thread and whose spouse is having difficulty deciding on what to do about it. Essentially all of his body functions have failed him and he is completely non-responsive to outside stimuli. We are basically just seeing the shell of a person whose spirit has already left the building.
All of the confusion and guilt is compounded by the fact that he never fully made his wishes known with a living will.
I have never had much difficulty facing my own mortality. Even when I was past the belief in an after life, or even caring if there is one, I haven't been terribly upset by the idea that one day I will be just… gone. It's just reality, and there isn't much that I can do about it either way, other than to avoid high-risk behaviors and live healthily and well.
Driving home from the hospital yesterday with my mom, we were both kind of frazzled from seeing our sick relative and dealing with the grief and suffering. I guess I kind of zoned out and nearly turned our car into oncoming traffic. In that instant, my mom and I might have been gravely injured or killed. I realized soon afterwards taht I haven't made my wishes known in case that something catastrophic did happen to me.
So for the record, being of sound mind and body, here are my wishes for myself:
- If I am beyond the state of recovery, and further treatment will only delay my impending death, let me go.
- If the doctors all agree that I am almost certainly brain dead, go ahead and let me go.
- If I am in a permanently unconscious state with less than a 10% chance of waking up, let me go.
- I want all my parts that are still useful to be donated to science after I'm dead.
I have no regrets about my life, and don't want to be a burden on those I leave behind. I would rather any "heroic measures" be spent in saving those who can be saved, rather than prolonging my demise if my mind and my spirit is gone.
I know this doesn't take the place of a proper "Advanced Health Care Directive" (living will). But I wanted to share it just the same.
More resources about living wills and Advanced Health Care Directives:
- Institute for Good Medicine
- American Bar Association Tool Kit for Health Care Directives
- BeliefNet Living Will Resources
- FamilyDoctor.org FAQ on Living Wills
- The US Living Will Registry