When it is time to let go
Our job as protective agents is to see that no bad things happen. In real life most of the bad things that can happen involve health problems and automobile accidents, which of course end up as health problems. (You be the one to tell Princess Di that the car isn’t moving until her seat belt is fastened!) When a medical emergency takes place two things need to happen. First, you need appropriate first-responder treatment and appropriate follow-up emergency treatment.
Second, once the emergency is stabilized, you need appropriate medical treatment. In theUS, appropriate medical treatment can usually be found within a reasonable distance. Abroad, it may be necessary to get back to the US or to some other medically satisfactory location. If you happen to be a senior executive with a company jet and unlimited funds, this is not much of a problem. If you are at the lower end of the totem pole, hopefully your company (or you) has a contract with one of the travel emergency providers. This editor uses the Travel Emergency Network, but there are others.
Sometimes, however, the state of the art in modern medicine may not be yet at a level to deal with the problem, and a hard decision must be made to refuse or discontinue life support. In this case it is imperative that there be a living will and health care proxy available. Without these some hospitals will refuse to discontinue heroic measures to save the patient.
For those who do not have one, here is a sample living will / health care proxy:
TO MY FAMILY, MY DOCTOR, MY LAWYER:
Should the time come when I can no longer make decisions for my medical care, these are my considered wishes:
A. Living Will
If there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from extreme physical or mental disability, I, __________________, direct that any treatment or procedures being administered to me which merely prolong my dying be withheld or withdrawn. I specifically do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means or heroic measures, including without limitation the administration of nutrition (food) or hydration (water). I ask that drugs be administered to me to alleviate the pain of terminal suffering, even if this might hasten the moment of my death.
This request is made after careful thought and while I am in good health and spirits. These directions express my legal right to refuse treatment, therefore I expect you who will care for me to regard yourselves as legally and morally bound to act in accordance with my wishes or those of my health care agent. I recognize that these directions place a serious responsibility upon you. It is with the intention of sharing that responsibility and freeing you from any legal liability that I make this statement.
B. Health Care Proxy
To effect my wishes, I, ____________, hereby designate my ____________, ______________, residing at _____________________________________, (Telephone _____________), as my health care agent, or, if he/she fails for any reason to act as such, I appoint my __________, _____________________, residing at _______________________________________________, (Telephone _____________), as my health care agent in their place and stead, to make any and all health care decisions for me, including the decision to refuse life sustaining treatment, if I am unable to make such decisions myself. This power shall remain effective during and not be affected by my subsequent illness, disability, or incapacity. My agent shall have authority to interpret my Living Will, and shall make decisions about my health care pursuant to my instructions or, when my wishes are not clear, as my agent believes to be in my best interests. I release and agree to hold harmless my agent from any and all claims whatsoever arising from decisions made in good faith in the exercise of this power.
I sign this document knowingly, voluntarily, and after due deliberation this _____day of____________, 199_.
We declare that ______________________, who signed this document, is personally known to us, appears to be of sound mind and to have acted willingly and free from duress. He signed this document in our presence. We have neither of us been appointed as agent by this document.