Medical Treatments When Death Is Near
You should leave instructions for what life support and/or palliative care you prefer if you become incapacitated. Seek your doctor’s advice and make sure that the doctor will honor your wishes. (If not, you might decide to change doctors.) Documents that will help you understand the available choices include:
Your Right to Decide - A free nine-page booklet by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association that explains what an Advance Directive is, and common treatments you can decide about in advance
Hard Choices for Loving People by Hank Dunn - An 80 page booklet written by a hospital chaplain that explains treatments like artificial feeding that may or may not be what is best for particular individuals. Published by A & A Publishers, this booklet is available from the Society.
What is Hospice? - A statement produced in 2016 by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.
To record your choices, prepare and register your Advance Directive, sometimes known as a Living Will.
Virginians should consider using the form available at
Another form is Five Wishes, produced by Aging with Dignity, a non-profit organization. As explained in a statement about Power of Attorney produced for the Virginia Department for the Aging, it is advisable to appoint a person to act as your agent in case you should become incapacitated. When you appoint a person as your "agent" in your Advance Directive, that person is in effect your health care power of attorney.
A general power of attorney authorizes someone to make many kinds of decisions for you, including financial and business affairs. If the power of attorney is to apply when you are incapacitated (which is usually the primary reason for having one), it must be “durable.” To prepare such a document, consult your lawyer or use a standard form from a stationery store or the internet. The Memorial Society does not provide legal advice.