Letting Someone You Love Die: The Irony Behind a Living Will

When my mother died, she died in a hospital. Hospitalised with a malignant brain tumour on her brain stem that caused a stroke, she lived three days from her stroke until her death when we turned off life support. And when she died, we all gathered around her in the hospital room and sang “Amazing Grace” to her as she died. In those last few days, Mum was on a respirator and IV fluids, but she was fairly responsive when we spoke with her, squeezing our hands or nodding her head. In other words, she was dying, but still showed all the signs of living and being engaged with her surroundings. She couldn’t talk, but she definitely knew we were there, and every time I would lay next to her on the bed, she would nod her head up and down, and I knew she wanted me there. Taking her off life support seemed counter-intuitive and a difficult decision to make. But it wasn’t my decision. Mum had a living will. The summer before, my mother had taken a course in death and dying, the same year I took one on Living and Dying in Buddhist Cultures, and we had discussed in detail our thoughts on dying, death, and the ways in which people die. My mother had clear opinions on several aspects of death and dying, and strong opinions that people should be allowed to have as much control as possible about the circumstances of their dying. And it was with this in mind that she wrote her living will. It was so much easier said than done. When the...

Six things to consider when thinking about Wills

1)      Make sure you get a high quality Will, from a trusted provider. 2)      A correct and up-to-date Will is the only way to guarantee your wishes are carried out in the way you want. 3)      By setting up a trust, you can protect some of your estate from the 40 per cent inheritance tax. 4)      In some cases, particularly for unmarried parents, having a will is the best way to be sure that children under 18 will stay in the custody of your loved ones. 5)      Making a will doesn’t have to be expensive. If your needs are simple and basic, you can use an online company.  If your affairs are a bit more complex, then seek a solicitor. 6)      Beware the scammers offering to make your will for throwaway rates. If anyone cold-calls you and tries to pressure you with dire warnings of “losing out” if you don’t act right away, then there is a good chance they are trying to scam you.   Further reading:...

Heart surgery patients should make end of life plans

Patients undergoing heart surgery ought to create a Living Will beforehand, to guide their care in the event that they can no longer articulate their wishes. Patients undergoing complicated and risky treatments, such as aortic valve replacement, are at a considerable risk of death or suffering other complications related to the surgery, such as stroke and heart rhythm problems. In fact, recent studies suggest about a third of people who undergo such a procedure will die during the two years after surgery. The high death rate suggests many people will have to face up to difficult decisions following the procedure. A Living Will should be an integral part of such advance planning. In addition to ensuring patients receive care that’s in line with their wishes, a Living Will reduces the burden on family members who would otherwise make those decisions. Medical professionals should do more to make patients undergoing any type of surgery, but in particular surgery with a high likelihood of complications, aware of Advance Decisions and Living Wills, and should encourage them to register their own Living Will with the UK Living Will Registry. Further Reading: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/08/05/us-advance-directive-heart-surgery-idUKKBN0G526620140805 http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/29/us-advance-directives-health-idUSKBN0FY1VV20140729 If you don’t have an advance directive, the UK Living Will Registry urges you to get started today. A well written Advance Directive, like the one we provide, can ease the burden on your family and ensure that you spend your final days in the dignity of your own choosing. We also highly recommend that you go one step further and register your Advance Decision with us. We are the only national registry of Advance Decisions and Living Wills...

Elderly should be allowed to die, says leading cardiologist

Hospitals should let more elderly people die to help society accept that we are all mortal, a doctor has said. James Beattie, a cardiologist, said that hospitals try to resuscitate too many people who had little chance of recovering because people had not come to terms with death. “If a person is in hospital, particularly an elderly person, with multiple comorbidities [conditions or diseases], if they have a cardiac arrest it’s a sign they are of decline,” Dr Beattie told BBC Radio 4. “It’s their act of dying and they should not be resuscitated, they should be allowed to die.” Interestingly, Dr Beattie contends that society is no longer “familiar with death”: “Our great-grandparents and to some extent our grandparents grew up with people dying before the days of antibiotics,” he said. “People died at home.” That’s denied these days because of advancements in medicine which mean people are living longer, but not necessarily with a quality of life. “Death is now becoming something that largely happens in hospitals and care homes, somewhere removed from the family and the home. We need to make it a more natural expectation. Life is 100 per cent mortality and we need to get used to that.” The chance of an elderly patient going home after being resuscitated is only about 5 per cent, leading to many unnecessarily uncomfortable deaths. The elderly and frail are subjected to a barrage of tests and treatments which might keep them alive a little longer but do little for their quality of life, Dr Beattie said. However, he added that it was difficult for doctors to make...