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Make your health care wishes known

Published in Palliative Care Author: Merryn Jolkovsky,MD

A health care directive (formerly called a living will) gives your family direction on what medical care you want or don’t want if you can’t communicate.

A health care directive allows you to:

  • Appoint another person (called an agent) to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself.
  • Leave written instructions so that others can make decisions based on your wishes and preferences.

Why is this important? When your loved ones have to guess about what you would want, it leads to arguments, feelings of guilt and uncertainty. Completing your health care directive is a gift to your family.

Questions to think about:

  • What if it becomes necessary for me to make other living arrangements?
  • If I become unable to communicate, what do I want my loved ones to know about my health care wishes?
  • Who do I want to have make decisions for me when I can’t speak for myself?
  • At what point would I want to say, “Enough is enough. I want to focus on comfort and quality of life?”
  • Would I agree to an autopsy to help my family understand my cause of death?
  • Do I want to become an organ donor?
  • What are my preferences for funeral arrangements?

If you have a completed health care directive, bring a copy of it to your hospital so it can be added to your medical records. You can make changes to your health care directive if your wishes change.

The Convenings

The Convenings, a free event from 6:30-8 p.m. April 18 in the Stephen B. Humphrey Theatre at St. John’s University, Collegeville, includes an evening of music, storytelling and discussion that will inspire people to think about their choices for living and dying well. To register or for more information, call 612-362-3724. Seating is limited. Attendees will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a copy of “We Know How This Ends: Living while Dying.” The event is sponsored in part by CentraCare Health.