Filling out the paperwork for a Living Will /Advanced Health Care Directive is usually thought of as a very unpleasant task, one of those things that we “should” or “really need” to do– but put off for as long as possible. More often than not, once that task is completed and the new Living Will goes into our important document file, we breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate ourselves on having accomplished a monumental task. Period, end of conversation, subject closed.
I’d like to put forth a radically different perspective:
Creating a Living Will is just the starting point in beginning to take charge of shaping the end of our lives.
A few years ago, I had the extreme good fortune to attend a lecture by William Colby, the lawyer who successfully defended Nancy Cruzon’s right to die. This was the only right-to-die case ever heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. If you’ve forgotten the details of the case, it involved a young woman who was forced to exist in a persistent vegetative state for 3 years after a severe car accident left her brain-dead and completely disabled. Her parents were denied the right to disconnect her life support despite their conviction that their daughter would not want to be kept alive under these conditions, until Bill Colby successfully argued their case before the Supreme Court.
Colby eventually retired as a lawyer, became a Fellow with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and began a lecture tour around the country, speaking out eloquently on the need for Living Wills:
“As a society, we have to get better about talking about what we want when we are ill. Even if you’ve talked to your family a lot about it, the decision-making is profoundly hard, and it’s almost too much of a burden for someone to make a decision without written guidance.”
This wasn’t news to me, as a longtime hospice volunteer. John and I had long ago drawn up our own Advance Health Care Directives, at first, using the official Hawaii forms, and then later, expanding upon those forms with more explicit instructions of our own, which we had notarized. What really got my attention was the point that Colby kept coming back to again and again:
What is even more important than the Living Will is talking openly with your loved ones about what you want and do not want at the end of your life. Your Living Will cannot possibly cover every circumstance.
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The remainder of this chapter elucidates a little-known fact: even if you have a Living Will, your wishes about end-of-life care may not be carried out if family members have conflicting points of view. How to avoid that eventuality by taking action now is explained, along with a link to what is unquestionably the most comprehensive and thoroughly explained Living Will workbook ever published.
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I will realize absolutely no profit from the sale of this book. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards the support of the 400 monks, nuns and yogis in the seven Tibetan monasteries of Tulku Orgyen Zangpo Rinpoche, who have devoted their lives towards building the foundation for peace and freedom from suffering for all beings in this world.