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Planning a Good Death (2) Advance Directives

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

I bought a great book by BJ Miller called 'A Beginners Guide to the End' which outlines some basic info that everyone who wants a Good Death experience should know. I have spoken to loads of people who have all had bad death experiences with someone close to them due to lack of knowledge of the dying process, and also lack of direction and lack of good paperwork from the departed.

This post will focus on the first important bits of paperwork required for a Good Death.

Drawing up an Advance Directive and Lasting Power of Attorney

Think clearly while you are sound of mind about what kind of care you would want under circumstances where you have no voice anymore. You may be either too ill, infirm or incapacitated. Consider which conditions you do not want to live under. Specify as clearly and as extensively as possible ie. if there is no reasonable hope for quality of life to return you can refuse life-sustaining treatment such as CPR, or being fed or kept alive artificially. You can specify where you want to die, who should care for you, how should they care for you and what type of funeral you would like. These are some of the aspects you can cover in your Advance Directive.

You don't need to do this through a lawyer but it's probably better to do this at the same time as you draw up your Will, and assign Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. It must be witnessed and a good idea is to appoint an 'advocate'. This is someone you really trust, either family or friend, who will ensure your directive is adhered to. Best perhaps not to appoint a family member unless you can trust them implicitly to follow your wishes rather than their emotions and the hope that things may change. I was once in that position and could not veer away from desperately hoping for a miracle. It prevented me from honoring what I know my mom wanted at that moment. It took time - too much time - for me to realise it was the end of her road and to remove everything that was still postponing her departure.

There is a difference between things that postpone death and things that ensure comfort during the dying process. Ensure you know the difference. Oxygen, pain management, and quality end-of-life care ensures comfort, not extension of life.

Your 'advocate' (a friend or family member you trust) can also be your person to make legal decisions on your behalf in case you become unable to make them yourself. This is another document called a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. Give them a job description of what you would want them to do should you be in the position of not being able to decide for yourself. Most importantly - tell you family in the presence of your advocate about your wishes. If your wishes change make sure everyone knows. Ensure you state that your advocate has the final say should there be arguments among family members. This is sadly all too common. It is very difficult to be part of a decision that potentially prevents extension of life. We often think longer is better and that death is both failure and the end. But a Good Death has no unnecessary delays and may very well usher the departing person towards their next beautiful chapter.

Just remember, you want to be able to captain your ship till the end, even if only by prior reflection and advanced directives.


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