Handbook for Mortals : Planning Ahead : Making Sure Your Wishes Are Respected and Followed

First and foremost, tell your family and doctor what is important to you and write it down. From a legal perspective, it is better to write down what you want than to trust that everyone will remember what you said. A written statement gives your choices clarity, visibility, and validity. Be as precise as you can, both about what treatments you want and about what you hold dear, so that everyone will remember what you said.

Remember, too, that you can always change your mind. Your choices may change with your experiences. For example, people often choose aggressive care at the start of an illness, but then change their minds when the disease is not responding to treatment. It makes sense that your choices about your care might change as your condition changes. Preparing advance directives and talking about how you and your family plan to cope with serious illness and death can help to make the end of life a time of comfort and dignity - not a time of hurried choices.

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Keywords: Advance care planning
Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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