Customizing Advance Medical Directives


Discussion of Advance Medical Directives often take a one-size-fits-all approach: “Check Box A if you want all life-preserving treatments possible, even if that means draining your bank accounts and causing needless suffering. Check Box B if you do not want any life-prolonging treatment, even if you are otherwise months or years away from dying.”

When it comes to matters of death and dying, there are as many viewpoints as there are individuals on this earth. Religious tradition often heavily informs our medical choices.

Buddhists treat the time of dying as “a transition of significant meaning” and practitioners “will object to treatment that clouds or otherwise disturbs a patient’s tranquility and mental state.”

Hindus, too, value a tranquil transition from life to death, as “the nature of one’s thoughts at the time of death determine the destination of the departing soul” (i.e. reincarnation implications).

Jehovah’s Witnesses will not agree to blood transfusions.

Christian Scientists will permit only faith healing, to the point of refusing medical procedures and pharmaceuticals.

While an Advance Medical Directive may start off as a standard form, it should be tailored to accurately reflect your preferences with regard to end-of-life medical care and name the individual(s) making those decisions on your behalf. A good estate planning attorney should cover this topic and, at a minimum, offer you the option to create an Advance Medical Directive that captures your wishes.

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