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Living Wills...Control your own destiny!

Updated on March 5, 2016

Making one's wishes known


Control your own destiny!

Everyone that has reached an age sufficient enough to be making life decisions, should definitely consider getting living will. This is in addition to any other type of legal document one has secured.

Those are also vitally important.

Please accept this bit of advice from the perspective of having been in the nursing profession and having seen the good, the bad and the ugly decisions that are made for people once they can no longer tell the doctors and other decision makers what they might have wanted or wished regarding medical care for themselves.

I'll give you two examples of the "ugly" decisions, in my opinion.

The Importance of Living Wills...

Me wearing my nurse's uniform and hat back in the 1970's

Picture of me back in the days when nurses wore white uniforms and hats.  Many years ago!
Picture of me back in the days when nurses wore white uniforms and hats. Many years ago! | Source

Living Will

Real story number one

One was a terminal cancer patient that I attended as a private duty nurse. It was one of the very few private duty cases that I ever accepted and I felt an obligation to remain on the case until the death of the patient. This was not easy! I'll call him Mr. X.

He was a lovely man with metastasized cancer that had spread over his entire body. He was most often in pain. His veins were poked and assaulted with so many intravenous fluids and medications, that they were harder and harder to find and keep patent (open and free flowing.) When they finally had to try to find some available veins in his feet because the other sites had been exhausted, he screamed out with pain.

I refused to inflict this suffering and the floor nurses had to follow the doctors orders instead.

Mr. X quite often hallucinated, so had he spoken to doctors about his wants and desires at that point, they probably would not have deemed his decisions "normal" and worth following. Thus, his family made the medical decisions for him and they decided to prolong his life.

This happened to be during a period with a severe blood shortage in Houston and I often wondered why they kept giving Mr. X blood when his case was terminal and other people undoubtedly needed the blood to survive. I personally thought that this was criminal!

The odor coming from his room due was horrendous. I understood why most of the other private duty nurses bailed out of caring for him. My stomach often lurched and I never did vomit, but most often had to fight that feeling each day when I first entered his room.

His family DID come and visit him, but never stayed in the room for long. They would gather and visit with each other in a nearby lounge. I was instructed to come and get them if anything rapidly deteriorated.

Mr. X's final relief came shortly after his attending doctor gave me a verbal order (which I happily charted) to discontinue the I.V's when the next time came when his veins would no longer support them. The doctor was going on vacation and actually told Mr. X that he would see him in the next life. It did not take long for that poor man's vein to be other words, the I.V. no longer worked.

When he was no longer able to receive fluids and medications, he quite peacefully slipped into a semi-comatose state and quietly died. All the many needless weeks of suffering had come to a close.

Had Mr. X had a living will (also called an advanced directive), and his intentions regarding care "above and beyond" the ordinary.........especially if chances of a full recovery looked grim, this long drawn out scenario might never have occurred.

His peaceful death could have come earlier and he would have suffered far less pain!

Living Will - Advanced Directives

Living Wills, After Terri Schiavo

Real story number two

Another example goes back to my student nursing days when I actually volunteered to be in the hospital.

I was asked to "sit" with a patient that was in a private room and was in a full coma. He was hooked up to all kinds of medical paraphernalia including a respirator. (At that point in my desired nursing career, it was actually a bit scary for me!)

His family wanted to "keep him alive" until family members from other parts of the country could get there to see him.

Yes..........his body was in that bed..........but he was hardly alive in any other sense. He could not breathe on his own and he was determined to be brain dead. The only thing moving was the heaving of his chest in time with the noise of the respirator. Was this the life he would have wished for himself? I often wondered.

It did not take me long to realize that I did not want my life to be attended like these examples at it's end stage. With a LIVING WILL one has choices! It is a simple form that can be signed and notarized. Make sure your family members or others that might be caring for you know of it's existence. Give a copy of it to your doctor.

Whatever you decide to do, consider making your wishes known PRIOR to any need. Don't get stuck in situations outside of your control. You might end up suffering needlessly, not to mention the ridiculous costs of on-going medical care when there is no chance of successful recovery.

Do an online search of Living Wills. You can print out forms that meet various state requirements and all at no cost. My heartiest recommendations would be that you protect yourself and make your wishes known TODAY. Tomorrow could be too late!

Be in control of your own destiny. Get a living will!

About this author...

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© 2008 Peggy Woods

Comments are always welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Author Cheryl,

      It is sad when things like that happen at the end of a person's life. You are correct in that the family members do not have to follow the wishes in a living will...but hopefully it nudges most people in the right direction.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mary,

      It sounds as though you have taken some good precautions. In addition to a living will you could also have a DNR paper signed and notorized. Just some backup insurance for those who may have to make decisions on your part at the end of life.

      Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      This should be on everyone's 'to do' list because if not specified ahead of time, things might go very wrong at the end of one's life. Thanks for the share. Happy New Year!

    • Author Cheryl profile image

      Cheryl 2 years ago

      I am a firm believer in having your documents ready in case of a circumstance that prevents you from making decisions. I have stood in the ICU and heard children arguing to keep their mother or father alive. I have witnessed a living will not being used properly and not carried out as the person wished. It's sad how selfish people are to the one that is suffering.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      You have given some very good advice with this Hub. I certainly have a living will and I would hope my family honors my wishes. I also have a durable power of attorney. My family understands I never want to be placed on life support if there is absolutely NO hope.

      Voted this Hub UP, etc.

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