Harvard Health Letter’s tips on creating a living will or health care proxy

News stories this spring prompted many people to think about, if not actually prepare, living wills or health care proxies. These documents give you the chance to explain what medical treatments you would and wouldn't want in certain situations or to name someone to make these decisions for you, should you be physically or mentally unable to do so. The June issue of the Harvard Health Letter explains these documents and also gives readers practical advice on how to complete a living will or health care proxy. It can be hard to think about what you'd want in specific situations because of all the variables involved, the Harvard Health Letter notes. No amount of detail will cover every situation. So instead, focus on your goals for your end-of-life care. Many people name pain management as a top goal. Maybe you want to live as long as possible. Or maybe you want to be kept alive in certain situations long enough for your family to be with you. In any case, you don't have to write a living will from scratch. Forms with scenarios and fill-in-the-blank questions are available to guide you. The end-of-life cases that cause controversy are few and far between. In most cases, families, doctors, and nurses make hu¬mane decisions using common sense and compassion, and written documents aren't needed. They're for the exception, not the rule. But by having a living will and designating a health care proxy, we narrow the chances of dying in a way we wouldn't want and may spare loved ones heartache when it's time to make difficult decisions.
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