Advance Health Care Directives

When we were in Puerto Vallarta, my Aunt Cathy and I had a discussion about living wills and advance health care directives. Our conversation was centered on my Grandma, but also the fact that everyone needs to have a living will for two reasons:
1. To ensure that your medical wishes are respected in case of an emergency.
2. To ease the burden with regards to decisions that your family may need to make on your behalf (short & long-term).
Advanced health care directives are legal documents drawn up by a person to give instructions to physicians and medical personnel as to what treatment or care you want to receive/not receive in case of an emergency or long-term illness. Issues such as: do not resuscitate orders, ventilators and feeding tubes can all be a part of your directive. It should also contain the name of a Proxy (medical power of attorney) – someone who will act on your behalf to ensure your wishes are carried if you are unable to do so. It is important to have in-depth discussion about your health care directive with your chosen proxy, so they fully understand your wishes.
So, in reality your wishes will be known and followed……..unless you live in Texas. (Globe and Mail article)
Marlise Munoz, a paramedic, had a health care directive indicating she did not want to be kept on life support if there was no chance of her recovery. In November, Marlise collapsed from a fatal blood clot in her lungs. Her husband and family were ready to say good-bye to her, but the government disagreed. Because Marlise was 14 weeks pregnant, the doctors at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas have placed her on life support machines in the ICU. They say that in Texas doctors must take all live saving measures to preserve the life of an unborn child. Despite Marlise’s wishes, her body (she has been clinically declared brain-dead) is being used as an incubator for the fetus – which has a heartbeat, but may have been deprived of oxygen. Understandably, Marlise’s husband and parents are distraught – yet a lawsuit may be their only option for closure.

In Canada, each province has different laws with regards to Advance Health Directives. This website has some information, but the best suggestion is to consult your lawyer.

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