As we've discussed in great detail on our blog, no estate plan can be considered complete until a person has executed documents -- known as advance directives -- outlining their exact wishes concerning both medical treatment and end-of-life care.
Interestingly, a recently published study in the Journal of Medical Ethics examining some of the decisions people make regarding their advance directives -- which in Florida can include a living will, health care surrogate designation and anatomical donation -- found that many are now using these documents as more than just a mechanism to refuse medical care.
As part of the study, researchers from DePaul University examined the advanced directives of 491 Texas residents between the ages of 19 to 94. In something of a departure from previous studies, they found that as many as one-third of these study participants requested some form of medical intervention to prevent death such as breathing assistance or antibiotics.
Breaking the numbers down further, the researchers discovered that those participants under the age of 50 proved more likely to want this medical intervention than those over the age of 50.
Another intriguing discovery made by the researchers was that while many participants had filed a copy of the document with their attorney or medical provider, very few had actually taken the time to discuss the matter with their loved ones, effectively leaving those who may be responsible for their care in the dark.
"It appears that many people hand a document to a person who may be involved in their future care decisions, but they don't discuss what the document means, or what their wishes or values are," said the primary author of the study. "Having the document is important, but having the conversation is essential."
Those who did take the time to discuss the matter with their loved ones were most likely to speak with a spouse/partner, followed by their children and siblings.
What studies like these really serve to underscore is that advance directives can be tailored to a person's exact wishes, effectively eliminating any worries they may have about the future.
To learn more about executing a living will, health care surrogate designation or other estate planning documents, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.