End of Life Care: What Would Your Doctor Do?

The Directive to Physicians, or Living Will, is the document that allows you to specify what life sustaining treatments should be administered or withheld if you are diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition.

Signing this document is not easy for most people. If forces them to consider the potential that they may one day be lying unconscious in a hospital room with no hope of recovery, and puts them in the position of dictating to their loved ones how and when to end their lives.

Most of us don’t have experience with the dying process, making end-of-life decisions difficult. That’s why I often advise my clients who are struggling with this document to talk to their doctors about end-of-life issues.

While most of my clients have difficulty signing this document, my clients who are doctors do not. Having worked with patients at the end of their lives, they understand the limits of modern medicine and appreciate the futility of significant medical intervention at the end of their lives.

Apparently, this is typical for doctors in general. A recent study found that doctors are less likely to demand aggressive end-of-life care than the general public, opting instead for a peaceful death.  The study found that in the last six months of their lives, physicians were less likely to be admitted to the ICU, less likely to have surgery than the general public, and less likely to die in a hospital.

So if you’re having difficulty with signing this document, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can answer your questions and explain your options depending on your unique fears and concerns.

And then sign the directive. Sharing your healthcare wishes and explaining your reasoning can relieve your loved ones of a lot of stress they may feel in making these decisions without your guidance and can ensure that your healthcare wishes are followed at the end of your life.

For one doctor’s perspective, read: Why Doctor’s Choose to Die Differently.

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