Handbook for Mortals : Questions and Answers About Advance Directives : My mother had a living will but the doctor ignored it. Is this common?

Some people assume that advance directives have not been as effective as they could be because doctors often ignore them. This is not true; in fact, doctors usually follow clearly stated directives. Directives arenít "followed" when they are too vague to indicate exactly what should be done. Many standard forms use the phrase "no heroic means" to describe the treatment the patient does not want. Just what does this phrase mean? What might be "heroic means" to one person may be ordinary to another. The classification often depends on your illness. Such imprecise and vague language doesnít really give much direction unless other conversations have made the meaning clear. Advance planning helps doctors know what you want, instead of having to guess.

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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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