Why COVID-19 Makes National Healthcare Decision Day 2020 Even More Important

National Healthcare Decisions Day

Each year on National Healthcare Decisions Day, I write about how having a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney at minimum is extremely important. And this was before the pandemic that is Coronavirus. Many people are coming face to face with what will happen if they get sick or pass away without having the proper documents in place. Being an estate planning attorney, this is something I think about and work on for clients every day. My goal is for everyone to have an updated estate plan that will ensure you and your family are taken care of in the event of illness or death. In fact this is SO crucial now, many articles as of late have been written explaining why, including an opinion piece penned by multiple authors in The Washington Post.


Life Saving Measures in Short Supply

“Now more than ever, medical directives about end-of-life care are essential, especially for the elderly, who in the coming weeks and months may find themselves requiring emergency attention, whether for covid-19 or some other illness. With the prospect that ICU beds could soon be in short supply — as they already are in parts of New York City — it is vital for physicians to know, and to honor, every patient’s explicit wishes,” according to Megan L. Ranney, an emergency physician and an associate professor at Brown University; Jeremy Samuel Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School and Chuck Pozner, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.


Be Proactive with a Medical Directive for Best Care

The authors go on to explain that being prepared with as detailed information as possible will help already overwhelmed doctors and hospitals take the best care of patients and their families while honoring their wishes. Especially if their wishes are to forego heroic measures, which is something that for many families and doctors is hard to do. “… we urge both health-care workers and families to reopen conversations on the subject with patients and loved ones before they are in the throes of life-threatening illness. We also urge patients and families to record these preferences on paper, with medical orders or living wills, and have them ready for communication with their doctors. And doctors must respect those wishes. Even under normal circumstances, too often patients’ own explicit choices to forgo heroic measures are ignored. They end up receiving care they never wanted, and great harm is done.”


What is a Living Will?

In Arizona, we strongly recommend a Living Will, which details specifically the types of medical treatment you would/would not like in certain situations. The decisions detailed in this document are the ones that are often dramatized on TV medical shows when a character is portrayed in a prolonged coma or requests not to be resuscitated (a DNR). Sadly these scenarios happen in real life all too often when people don’t have these documents in place which is stressful during an already difficult time. Terry Schiavo is one of the most famous examples. Learn more about healthcare docs HERE. There are of course other choices to be made next, such as Organ Donation. I highly suggest that everyone invest time in creating powers of attorney, a will, trust and real estate deeds in place sooner rather than later to be fully prepared and to help your family during what is an incredibly difficult time.