A comprehensive estate plan that doesn’t just talk about what happens if you die. It also has instructions for medical care in case you become incapacitated. You can authorize someone to handle your finances with a power of attorney and also leave behind instructions regarding your medical wishes.
There are numerous medical decisions that family members might need to make on your behalf if you are in a coma or otherwise unable to speak for yourself. Although there may be unique concerns that you need to address such as preferences based on family history and your personal medical condition, the three issues below are largely universal decisions that people need to address.
The degree of care that you receive after a serious medical event
How much medical treatment you receive after an incapacitating medical event will depend in part on your previously expressed wishes. For example, you may agree to short-term life support but not indefinite life support.
Alternatively, you may want medical professionals to exhaust every avenue to keep you alive and help you to regain consciousness. Making clear your feelings on matters ranging from feeding tubes and respiratory support to more involved treatments like surgery can guide your loved ones when they must decide on your behalf.
Your feelings about pain management or palliative care
Some people want to prioritize their comfort after a traumatic medical event. Others know they have a penchant for substance abuse or addiction and want to avoid narcotic painkillers except in the most extreme circumstances. Family members may not know your personal feelings on the matter, so being clear about your wishes for pain management and palliative care during incapacitation is important.
Your wishes about organ and tissue donation
Everything from your kidneys to your corneas could help improve the lives of others. Many people want to be organ donors but have never bothered to fill out paperwork to formally establish themselves as donors.
Their family members, trapped in grief after an unexpected loss, may decide against donation because they assume their loved one would have filled out paperwork if they wanted to be a donor. Whether you want organs and tissues donated when you die or your religious beliefs forbid such procedures, you need to address this question now or leave it in the hands of your loved ones.
Making your feelings on the matter clear will give your loved ones clear guidance during what could be a very difficult time. Integrating medical wishes into your estate plan can benefit both you and the people who will have to make decisions about your care.