These findings support the value of advance healthcare directives as a means of making end-of-life treatment preferences known (sometimes called anticipatory directives or living wills).
The study found that such formal estate planning documents improved the likelihood that a patient’s wishes would be followed and reduced emotional trauma among family members.
The results illustrate the value of people making their end-of-life wishes known in an advance directive (living will) as well as designating someone to make treatment decisions for them before the end-of-life stage. This is why both a Natural Death Advance Directive and a Medical Power of Attorney are necessary parts of a modern integrated estate plan. Each document fulfils a specific purpose.
The Associated Press reports: “In the study, those who spelled out their preferences in living wills usually got the treatment they wanted. Only a few wanted heroic measures to prolong their lives. The researchers said it’s the first accounting of how many of the elderly really end up needing medical decisions made for them.”
Every adult should make the effort to clarify their medical treatment and end-of-life wishes. Everyone should have this important conversation with their loved ones, specifying what they want out of their final years, how they want to be cared-for, and where they want to live.
Every adult should create the appropriate legal instruments (documents) for their state, drafted by a lawyer who specialises in estate planning.
Be careful about relying upon the well-meaning advice from friends – they often think they know what they are talking about, but they may not truly understand the legal complexities involved. Similarly, the internet is full of references to these types of documents, but BEWARE! Laws change from time to time and from place to place. A living Will in Florida is not the same as a Living Will in Victoria, or in South Australia.
Rod Genders is a senior Australian lawyer specialising in estate planning and accident compensation. His boutique specialist law firm is one of the oldest and most respected in Australia – visit it at www.genders.com.au . Rod is also a prolific author and speaker. Some of his articles and books on Wills, Probate, Trusts, Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Retirement Planning may be found at www.genders.com.au/adelaide-lawyer-blog