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Advance Directive: What to Include - Topic Overview

What does quality of life mean to you? continued...

Do you have any other thoughts about what quality of life means to you and how much control you want to have over it?

Here are some other questions to think about:

  • Where do you want to spend the last days of your life? Would it be in the hospital or at home?
  • Do you have any medical problems right now that affect your way of life?
  • Do you have an implanted cardiac device that may need to be deactivated at some point? This includes some types of pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter-defibrillators).
  • Do you want to donate your organs when you die?
  • Can you talk to your doctor about end-of-life issues?
  • Do your religious or spiritual beliefs keep you from having a living will? If they do, ask your clergy or spiritual advisor to help you know what to do if you can't make medical decisions for yourself.
  • Will you be able to practice religious rituals before you die? In some religions, rituals are done before or after a person dies. If you want certain rituals to be done and know who you want to do them, write them in your advance directive. For safety reasons, some hospitals may not let you do certain rituals.
  • Do you want to include your beliefs and thoughts about illness, dying, and death?

You may find it hard to answer some of these questions. Here’s a way to help make things more clear.

Try to picture yourself in each of the situations listed below. Then think about what you would like to happen if you couldn't say what you wanted. As you read through each example, write down any thoughts that come to you.

  • What if you had a disease that couldn't be cured? Would you want to be given antibiotics to get rid of an infection, such as pneumonia, that might lead to your death if it’s not treated?
  • What if you had a disease that gets worse over time and affects your movement or memory, such as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease? Would you want to be given food and fluids through a tube? If so, is there a time when you would want to stop this treatment?
  • What if you were in pain? Would you want to be given strong doses of medicine to ease it, even if they make you groggy and not able to think clearly?
  • What if you were in a coma and there was little chance that you would come out of it? Would you want to be kept alive by a machine that pumps air into your lungs through a tube if you can't breathe on your own?

Try this exercise again with a few more "what if" situations. This time you might think about what your doctor says about your chances for recovery and how that might affect what you decide to do. You may see some patterns develop that can help you decide what to include in your advance directive.

These decisions are tough to make, but you don't have to make them alone. Look to your family, your doctor, and your friends for help and support.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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