The Peaceful Pill eHandbook End of Life Care & Advance Health Directives
In contrast to rather limited assisted suicide laws around the world, advance health care planning is an area that has been broadly and widely legislated. Almost all western countries now possess some form of laws (or guidelines) that regulate the provision of medical treatment and care when a person can no longer advocate on their own behalf.
Accompanying such laws are other legal mechanisms that enable a person who is comatose, unconscious and unable to express their wishes to have previously appointed an advocate, health care proxy, agent or enduring guardian. This person is legally empowered to ensure that a person’s advance directive document (and wishes) are respected and implemented as needs be.
In many ways it can be more important to empower a live human being to advocate on your behalf, than relying on a passive written document. We all have heard of horror stories where medical staff have accidentally overlooked (or deliberately ignored) a person’s advance directive. Sometimes heroic medicine knows no bounds. In times like this a talking, walking advocate may be especially helpful.
But, then again, you don’t want to appoint an agent, advocate, proxy etc. if that person is likely to fold against medical pressure to continue treatment. Or, conversely, hold out for treatment (that you yourself would never have approved of) when the doctors are saying it would be all but futile. This is truly an area where the more plans and precautions that can be put in place the better, as the outcome can be a matter of life and death.