National Healthcare Decisions Day is today, April 16th.  It’s an important reminder for every adult to let someone know their most private wishes about medial treatments and possible end-of-life care.

Far too many people assume that their families would make the choices they would want in an emergency. Yet everyday we hear stories of adult children, siblings or other relatives battling during a health care crisis over “what their loved one would have wanted” in that situation.

The Terry Shiavo case is a great example of this. At the young age of 26, Shiavo suffered sudden cardiac arrest and slipped into a permanent vegetative state. She never documented her wishes about things like feeding tubes, life support and long-term quality of life, leaving her family to battle for years over these questions in court.

Her husband eventually had her feeding tube removed claiming, “That’s what she would have wanted”. But was it really? We’ll never know because Terry didn’t make her healthcare wishes known to her closest family and friends.

But it’s not enough to just tell someone about your wishes. You need to clearly document your preferences, too. Remember, emotions can run high during a health care crisis, and it might be hard for your loved ones to stop life support when they desperately want you around. Having your wishes spelled out in writing helps make these types of decisions easier for your loved ones, especially in cases when other family members don’t agree.

So in honor of National Health Care Decisions Day, I encourage you to start tough conversations with loved ones about your personal medical preferences for medical or long-term care. Here are some important questions to consider:

  • What are your thoughts on feeding tubes, life support and other artificial life saving devices?
  • Is there any type of medical care you would NEVER want?
  • If you were permanently disabled or incapacitated, what things would contribute or take away from your “quality of life”?
  • Who do you trust to make important medical decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself?
  • What are your thoughts on nursing home vs. in-home health care?
  • Who would you trust to manage your long-term care?

These are not the most fun conversations to have, but they will help to ensure that your most personal wishes are honored in a true medical emergency. Talk them over with loved ones and get something in writing that spells out your wishes and the care you want if something happens to you. If you have questions, call us at 616-827-7596 and get something in writing before an unforeseen emergency strikes.

Michael Lichterman is an estate planning and charitable planning attorney who helps families and business owners create a lasting legacy by planning for their Whole Family Wealth™.  This goes beyond merely planning for “stuff” – it’s about who your are and what’s important to you.  He focuses on estate, charitable, and asset protection planning for all generations (“young” and “experienced”), the “sandwich generation” (caring for parents and children), doctors/physicians, nurses, lawyers, dentists, professionals with minor children, family owned businesses, and pet planning.  He enjoys creating life long relationships with his clients centered on their families values, insights, stories and experiences.