It’s critically important that you share your end-of-life wishes with your doctors and the people you love. It is equally important that you complete and sign a written health care proxy and living will so that when you cannot speak for yourself, your end-of-life wishes will be honored.
The experience of Luz Salazar Garcia speaks volumes. In 2003, at 76, Garcia had advanced diabetes that robbed her of her eyesight. She also had advanced glaucoma, high blood pressure and neuropathy. Her husband and daughter became her caregivers 24 hours a day at her Los Angeles-area home.
Two years later, Garcia was hospitalized with kidney failure, breast cancer and multiple other conditions. Garcia was ready to die, and she let her family know. But, a doctor persuaded her husband that he should try to keep her alive through kidney dialysis. Against Garcia’s wishes, the doctors went ahead with dialysis.
Garcia was enraged. She shouted to make her wishes known. And, she resisted the efforts to treat her. She kept removing the oxygen mask. She died shortly thereafter. She spent her final moments struggling to stop the treatment, not in peace as she had wanted.
The lesson is clear that without a written directive, doctors and family members may intervene in your care in ways you would not want. To learn more about Luz Garcia’s story and end-of-life educational initiatives, click here. Here are six reasons why you and your loved ones should create advance directives, as well as a helpful toolkit of advance care planning resources that includes Spanish and Chinese translations. And, here’s a short Jon Stewart video with Atul Gawande explaining why you should ask your loved ones about their end-of-life wishes.