A business associate of mine has recently ended up in the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital from a sudden, life-threatening medical condition. With no parent alive or family members whom he trusts, this man finds himself unable to make decisions for himself. What would you do if you found yourself in this position? Even if you had trusted family around to make critical medical decisions for you, are you certain that those decisions would be in line with your own wishes?

There is a way to prepare for this eventuality through a “living will” or medical Advance Directive. An Advance Directive has nothing to do with disposing of your estate. It is exclusively designed to carry out your wishes concerning your medical care should you be unable to communicate these desires yourself and to designate who should carry out those wishes. It is well-worth planning for this kind of situation in advance so that your loved ones and next of kin are spared the agony of indecision or of trying to guess what you would want to do in a dire medical event.  Here are some examples of the types of treatment covered in Advance Directives:  1)Life support, such as ventilator breathing 2)Resuscitation efforts in the event of heart stoppage or breathing cessation  3) maintaining feeding through tubes  4)Pain relief

Begin the discussion with family members or even a lawyer. There is no required form for an Advance Directive as long as your wished are clearly delineated and witnessed by 2 people. You do not have to notarize the form but you should make sure your physician has a copy for your file and that those your trust know how to access the Directive.

In Maryland,   forms are available from a number of sources to help you begin the process of outlining your desires according to your own values and religious beliefs. Some organizations are listed below:

Maryland Attorney General’s Office                                       Caring Connections (NHPCO)
410-576-7000 or 888-743-0023                                                    800-658-8898
www.oag.state.md.us/healthpol/adirective.pdf                               www.caringinfo.org

Aging with Dignity