Even though Massachusetts does not recognize the living will to be an enforceable legal document; as an Attorney, I still advise my clients to have one, but not just your typical living will – a form too general in my opinion. I provide my clients with the Five Wishes document. If they so choose to execute this document, it provides them a vehicle for controlling how they will be treated if they become seriously ill. It addresses:
1) the person they want to make care decisions for them when they cannot
2) the kind of medical treatment they want and don’t want
3) how comfortable they want to be
4) how they want people to treat them
5) what they want their loved ones to know.
There is a pressing need for individuals to be as specific as possible about their wishes. People must prepare, plan and assert!
As a Registered Nurse, I have seen all too often patients, families, healthcare providers and even the courts debating about end of life care and treatment. Unfortunately, most of the debates surround specific life sustaining measures without really addressing how the life is going to come to an end. End of life care and treatment brings about many questions, much more than just: do I want a machine to breathe for me or do I want to be given food and water by way of a medical device (tube feeding)? People must advocate for themselves now when they are able!
The Five Wishes is a compassionate way to address difficult issues as patients and their families plan ahead and cope with serious illness. This document has been referred to as the first “living will with a heart and soul”. It is the brain child of a gentleman named Jim Towey who worked closely with Mother Teresa. The form is easy for people to fill out, only requiring them to check a box, circle a direction, and/or cross out items they do not agree with. There is even spaces left so that specific wishes can be written out that are important to that particular person.
Individuals are unique and in my opinion by using the Five Wishes, the person is able to make known their personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well as their specific medical wishes. Those involved with the ailing person whether that be the family, friends, or healthcare providers can rest assured that the individual has clearly expressed what they want to be done and not done. The Five Wishes provides understanding and allows for an end of life with dignity.
Attorney Amy Beth Baron is uniquely qualified to handle those issues with an overlap of law and nursing. In addition to having been admitted to practice law for over 12 years, she is a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Life Care Planner and Certified Case Manager. She is trained in mediation for the areas of elder care, nursing matters and family conflict.