How to Ensure Doctors Follow Your Health Care Wishes – Living Wills

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton (UK)

Courtesy of and Loyola University Health System

On April 16, Americans are being urged to complete living wills and other types of advance directives, in observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day.

Newswise – 14-Apr-2009

Years before they died, Russell George and his wife, Dorothy, sat down with Dr. Laura Saelinger-Shafer of Loyola University Health System to prepare their living wills. They both died at home, without being hooked up to tubes and machines.

A living will states that in the event a person becomes terminally ill and is unable to communicate, he or she does not want any procedures that would only prolong the dying process.

After Russell George was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer, he died at his La Grange Park home at age 84. “He slipped away peacefully,” said his daughter, Meredith Onion.

The following year, Dorothy George became terminally ill from complications from heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Like her husband, she was in Loyola’s hospice program and died at home, without being hooked up to tubes and machines. “It was as peaceful and dignified as it could be,” Onion said.

Onion said that because her parents had prepared advance directives, “I was never put in a position of having to guess what they would have wanted.”

Saelinger-Shafer said it can be difficult for people to talk about such issues, especially when they are still healthy. “But health care decisions are easier to make ahead of time, when it is not a crisis situation.”

Saelinger-Shafer added that patients should make sure to bring their advance directives to their doctors. “If the forms sit in a drawer, and no one knows about them, then we cannot know a patient’s wishes,” she said.

Saelinger-Shafer is an internist with a special interest in geriatrics, and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola is taking the lead in educating doctors and patients about advance directives. Each patient admitted to Loyola University Hospital is asked whether he or she has an advance directive, and if so, to bring it in. If not, the patient is given information on how to fill one out. Advance directives are scanned into the hospital’s electronic medical record system, and prominently displayed on the home screen of each patient’s electronic file.

“Determining what kind of care you would want is a fundamental patient right,” said Sharon Englert, director of patient relations. “Loyola places a great priority on preserving and supporting our patients’ right to determine and participate in their own care.”

A living will is among several types of advance directives. Other documents include:

Advance Directives

There are several types of advance directives, and they all are included in the packet Loyola gives to patients who request them.

Health Care Power of Attorney

This designates whom you would like to make health-care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. It also states whether, for example, you would like to be an organ donor or have life-sustaining treatments.

Living Will

This takes effect if you become terminally ill. It states that you would not want any procedures done if they would only prolong the dying process.

Do-Not-Resusciate Order

This states you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation if your heart stops and you stop breathing. Measures to promote patient comfort and dignity will be provided.

Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration

This states whether you would want to receive electroconvulsive treatment or psychotropic medicine if you have a mental illness.

“Ideally, every adult should have an advance directive,” said Dr. Theresa Kristopaitis, medical director of Loyola’s Center for Home Care & Hospice.

“Even if you are young and healthy today, it is important that you take the time to think about and discuss your wishes with our physician and loved ones.”

Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 28 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill.

The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 561-licensed bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center.

Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness.

Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.

© 2009 Newswise. All Rights Reserved.

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About jeanne hambleton

Journalist-wordsmith, former reporter, columnist, film critic, editor, Town Clerk and then fibromite and eventer with 5 conferences done and dusted. Interested in all health and well being issues, passionate about research to find a cure and cause for fibromyalgia. Member LinkedIn. Worked for 4 years with FMA UK as Regional Coordinator for SW and SE,and Chair for FMS SAS the Sussex and Surrey FM umbrella charity and Chair Folly Pogs Fibromyalgia Research UK - finding funding for our "cause for a cure" and President and co ordinator of National FM Conferences. Just finished last national annual Fibromyalgia Conference Weekend. This was another success with speakers from the States . Next year's conference in Chichester Park Hotel, West Sussex, will be April 24/27 2015 and bookings are coming in from those who raved about the event every year. I am very busy but happy to produce articles for publication. News Editor of FMS Global News on line but a bit behind due to conference. A workaholic beyond redemption! The future - who knows? Open to offers with payment. Versatile and looking for a regular paid column - you call the tune and I will play the pipes.
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