Care at the End of Life - Important Decisions
Many important decisions can be
made about the care you want to receive at the end of life while you are active
and able to communicate your wishes. By making arrangements in advance,
valuable time can be used to spend time with loved ones.
Communicating your health care decisions
advance directive, which documents your health care
preferences, you can help ensure your wishes will be respected if you become
unable to communicate for yourself.
An advance directive can
always be changed as your personal needs and goals change. Advance directives
living will, which is a legal document that expresses
your wishes for medical care if you become unable to speak or make decisions
for yourself. It allows you to keep control over your medical treatment
decisions at the end of life. Check the laws governing living wills in your
state. When considering some of the more difficult end-of-life decisions, it
may help to think about what kinds of medical procedures you would or would not
- A medical power of attorney (or durable power of attorney
for health care), which allows you to legally appoint a
health care agent (also called a health care proxy) to
make medical treatment decisions for you, not only at the end of your life but
any time you are unable to speak for yourself. You can and should make
decisions about your medical treatment for as long as you are able to make and
communicate them. But when this is not possible, your health care agent can use
both the written information in your living will plus what he or she
knows about you personally to make decisions about your medical
For more information on choosing a health care agent and
writing an advance directive, see:
Organ donation is another important
decision to consider at the end of life. Many people need organ transplants
because of medical conditions such as kidney failure,
cornea disease, or
heart failure. After your death, you may be able to
donate certain organs depending on their condition. Talk to your doctor about
whether your illness allows you to be an organ donor.
choose to donate, your organs may be distributed to one or more people, based
on blood and tissue type, the severity of the recipient's medical condition,
how long the recipient has been waiting, and geographical location.
If you are interested in donating, you can indicate this on an organ
donor card, a witnessed document that states your desire to donate your organs.
On this card, you can specify which organs you wish to donate, or you can
choose to donate any organ that is needed at the time of your death. Many
states allow people to designate on their driver's licenses their wishes
regarding organ donation.