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Monica Williams-Murphy: Create directive for health care

  • Published Wednesday, April 16, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Will your cousin (who lives across the country) choose what you will have for lunch?

Did your mother choose which underwear you are wearing today?

Both seem very unlikely, yet such relatives could end up choosing whether you have a feeding tube placed in you, or whether you’re kept on a ventilator should you become critically or terminally ill.

Shocking? Maybe so, but here’s an even more shocking statistic: 50 percent of us, at some time in our lives, will become unable to make our own medical decisions.

So how do you gain control over such a possible situation? It’s actually fairly simple: Create an advance directive.

Advance directives allow you to spell out what you would or wouldn’t want in a critical medical event and allow you to select, in advance, exactly who will speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself (a health care proxy).

Let me give you more real-life examples of what could happen if you don’t put your medical wishes into writing:

•  Family feuds. If you haven’t educated your family on what you want or do not want done to you at the end of your life or in a critical medical encounter, feuds, grudges and permanent family breakups may flare.

•  Unnecessary suffering. Not only might you end up lying in a bed hooked up to machines, hoses and tubes you never wanted, but your precious loved ones might end up lying in their own beds wondering if they did the right thing for you.

•  Financial ruin. When no advance directive is in place, poorly considered or outright futile medical procedures may be selected at the end of life.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. Give everyone some peace of mind by creating your advance directive today. WichitaMedicalResearch.org offers free forms and reference via its “Kansas Advance Directives” section.

Monica Williams-Murphy of Huntsville, Ala., is an emergency physician and advance directive advocate. She spoke last week at a health ethics conference in Wichita.

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