Different cancers kill hundreds of thousands of people every year, many here in California. If you've received a terminal cancer diagnosis you may be wondering what you can do to make sure your medical care wishes are respected and honored going forward. After all, what you want and what your family members may want may be very different. At the end of the day, it is your life and your body. You should get the final say.
Cancer is not something anyone or any family wants to deal with, but it happens. Upon receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, you may focus on living the rest of your life to the fullest and less on your impending demise. Anyone would rather focus on the former rather than the latter. Nevertheless, it is also important to make sure your final affairs are in order, including having protections in place for end of life care. You can accomplish this through estate planning and setting up advanced directives.
What is an advanced directive?
In short, an advance directive is a legal document in which you state what kinds of care you wish to receive and what kinds you find unacceptable. Along with this document, you may wish to execute a power of attorney to name a person as your health care agent or attorney-in-fact in the event that you become incapacitated. This individual will be in charge of making medical decisions for you.
There are various types of advanced directives. The most common are:
- Living will
- Do not resuscitate order
In a living will, you can leave very detailed instructions about your medical care wishes. This includes what you expect to happen to you and your baby -- if pregnant -- if you wish to be an organ donor, if you want to receive some medications but not others -- you get the gist. The DNR order is something you would sign if you do not wish for medical providers to take any actions to save or prolong your life if you were to die.
Are advanced directives always followed?
Advanced directives generally only come into play if a person has a terminal illness and is unconscious. Medical providers and the person you named in your health care power of attorney do have to abide by the wishes you set forth in this document. If there are concerns about the validity of the advanced directive or if family members or medical providers strongly object to directions provided, the issue can be taken to court.
Get it done now
If you're looking at a terminal cancer diagnosis, it is wise to consider setting up advanced directives as soon as possible. Waiting could result in your medical care wishes being unknown or ignored.