To the editor:
If ever there was a time to be sure that you and your loved ones have advanced directives regarding medical treatment, it is now, in the midst of this pandemic. This urgency applies to people of all ages of legal consent. Advanced directives are legal and written instructions regarding the medical interventions you would or would not want given a medical emergency when you are unable to speak for yourself. Written advanced directives are also known as a “living will” that can be notarized and filed with a lawyer, or not. There is also a document called “The Five Wishes” that you can fill out and give to those who would be responsible for medical decisions should you not be able to so.
Another important advanced directive is a document that lists the person(s) you have designated to make medical decisions that reflect your preferences listed in your living will and/or expressed orally. This document is called a health care proxy or health care power of attorney. This person should be someone with whom you have discussed your end-of-life and medical treatment desires and someone who you feel can and will follow your directives. Sometimes, counter to intuition, this person may not be a member of your family but a friend. Here is a good resource for advanced directives: http://www.massmed.org/Patient-Care/Health-Topics/Health-Care-Proxies-and-End-of-Life-Care/Health-Care-Proxies-and-End-of-Life-Care/#.XrCO3ZNKjOQ
The most important aspect of completing advanced directives is for us to come to clarity regarding what we would or would not want should we get ill with COVID-19. We may decide that we do not want to be hospitalized under any circumstances, and this should be known. We all also need to have an honest discussion with those who would be responsible for our care, including and most importantly, our primary practitioner. All these completed and signed forms should be in our medical records with copies made for our loved ones.
Deborah Golden Alecson