Are your affairs in order? We go through this life, never thinking for a moment that it could all change in a split second. My years as a paramedic put me in the middle of crisis situations, where family members had either made the tough decisions previously and put things in order, or they had failed to do so, causing medics and doctors to have to act, based on a lack of family decisions. In other words, designating a medical and financial power of attorney, or working with your doctor to put into place a Durable Do Not Resuscitate order, in the event that medics are called to your house, or having your doctor place a medical directive in your file, stating your wishes concerning measures to be or not to be taken in the event of respiratory or cardiac arrest.
These are all difficult decisions that need to be made prior to a life-changing event occurring. It is just like the decision for Hospice to be involved in the care of a very sick loved one. Decisions made while you are alert and in complete control of your life is the time to make them, unless you have made your wishes known to a person who can legally make decisions for you.
Let’s walk through the Durable Do Not Resuscitate process, better known as a Durable DNR. If you have been dealing with a long term illness, or an acute illness that comes with great suffering, and you have been advised by your doctor that you will never get better, then you begin to think about the extent of the care that you desire in the event of a major medical event. Upon your request, your doctor will sign off on the Durable DNR, which incidentally means that you do not have to renew it annually. The DNR used to be printed on yellow paper, and may still be that way. The DNR should be placed on the back of the patient’s door or on the refrigerator. When medics see this order, they will perform comfort measures, but will not do things like CPR or intubation, unless family members or the patient choose to overrule the DNR, which is an altogether different issue.
Some would say that we are playing God when we believe that we have the right to make these kinds of decisions for ourselves or for others. I do not believe that this is the case. God is the one who numbers our days. Our desire to not undergo extensive medical measures that will not change the outcome or will not give us any quality of life should be honored as our end of life wishes.