Recently a friend sent me a link to this blog that was posted on the site of The Conversation Project website.
For years, as a physician and public advocate for better care, I’ve talked about the importance of having conversations about what matters most to people in life-threatening situations and completing advance directives. As a principle of clinical ethics and practice, I believe that clarifying people’s values, preferences and priorities, and striving to act in accordance with them are fundamental to quality care.
But when it comes to my own care, my reasons for advance care planning are, well, personal. I have an advance directive, not because I am a doctor, but because I have a family.
It is an important reminder that planning for a major medical tragedy is not just for those getting up in years. Every adult, even if they are just 18, needs to have an Advanced Medical Directive and a Health Power of Attorney. Dr. Ira Byock, MD made a very strong case for his daughters to complete these while they were in college, and it is worth a read for any parent.
During phone calls with each of my two daughters that spring, the subject of Father’s Day came up. One asked, “Hey Dad, is there anything you’d like for Father’s Day this year?” There was. “I’d really like you to complete an advance directive.” There was silence and so I continued, “The worst thing I can imagine is for you or your sister to be seriously injured or ill. But even worse than that would be having to deal with a court or state legislature or, heaven forbid, the U.S. Congress in order to make decisions about your care.”