Inspite of all the advances in technology, there are still instances when curing an illness is no longer an option. At this stage, patients must be given the power to make treatment decisions. A patient may opt for aggressive measures to prolong life or stop treatment altogether, which could mean dying sooner but more comfortably. To carry out these options, it is essential to talk to your physician about having Advance Directives.
The components of an Advance Directive are as follows:
1. A LISTING OF POSSIBLE THERAPEUTIC OPTIONS
These would include being amenable to cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical respiration, tube feeding or other invasive forms of nutrition, blood transfusion, surgical procedures, kidney dialysis, and antibiotic treament.
2. PRIMARY DECISION MAKERS
In case the patient can no longer decide on his or her treatment, a proxy decision maker must be designated. In the absence of this directive, in order of significance, the following may be designated: 1. the spouse 2. children above 18 years old 3. parents, and 4. siblings.
3. ORGAN DONATION DIRECTIVE
When preferred, a person may choose to have any organ donated to others upon his or her demise. The organ, or the whole body, can be donated for this purpose.
The directive must be signed by the patient and followed up periodically for any changes. Two witnesses may also appear as signatories on the Advance Directive form.
Lastly, it must be emphasized that the advance directive is not a legal document but a tool to facilitate treatment decisions.
Caring at the end of life focuses on making patients comfortable and preserving the dignity of human life. Patients still receive appropriate medications to control pain and other symptoms. Some patients choose to die at home instead of in a hospital. This is acceptable because the hospital may not be the place preferred by the patient. In either case, Advance Directives may be applied to help patients and their families deal with issues surrounding death.