Avoid end-of-life crisis by making wishes known | TheUnion.com

Avoid end-of-life crisis by making wishes known

The bitter debate between the parents and husband of Terri Schiavo can be avoided if people simply make their wishes known, a Grass Valley attorney said Monday.

Stephen C. Haas, who has handled probate and trust matters for many years, said Californians can spell out their wishes in the case of serious illness or incapacitation by completing a durable power of attorney for health care.

The document, sometimes called a living will, provides direction to physicians in the event patients can’t communicate their wishes. An agent can be named to act on the person’s behalf, and the document can be as specific as the person likes, including a “do not resuscitate” designation, Haas said.

The medical durable power of attorney can be registered with the California secretary of state’s office, and hospitals can be liable for damages if they don’t carry out the patient’s wishes, he said.

“There has been a sea change in the medical profession,” Haas said. “Doctors no longer take the position that it’s their job to keep the patient alive at all costs. Now, they want direction.”

Many physicians now request the information from their regular patients, and nursing homes ask responsible relatives or guardians to review medical directives on a regular basis.

Admissions offices request the information when a patient is admitted to a hospital, but if the patient’s wishes aren’t spelled out in writing or the patient can’t speak, the next-of-kin must provide direction.

“I’ve been doing this for many years, and I’ve only had one person say they wanted to live no matter what,” Haas said.

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