Modern medicine offers tools to keep people alive longer, but sometimes continuing medical treatment may not be in the patient's best interest. While it is the responsibility of healthcare providers to provide the care necessary to prolong life, it is the patient's responsibility to let others know how they wish to be cared for in the event they are unable to communicate at the end of life. When people fail to make their wishes known, providers, and ultimately families, find themselves in the uncomfortable position of making difficult decisions on behalf of a patient.
By filling out advanced directives, or a living will, you will initiate a legal plan that makes your wishes known to your family and to your healthcare providers. Surprisingly, the majority of Americans do not have such a plan, partly because they don't know where to get one, or they are afraid it will cost too much. These are the same documents provided to inpatients in our EMHS member hospitals. However, this information should be respected at any healthcare facility in Maine.
Signing a living will and choosing a healthcare power of attorney to honor your end of life wishes gives you the final say in how you want to be treated. Be sure to discuss your desires with your physician, ask direct questions about treatments, side effects, and options. Then share your decision with your family and friends.