Recently, while playing catch-up on some podcasts I had missed, I came across an episode of WNYC’s Radiolab, called The Bitter End. For those of you unfamiliar with Radiolab, it describes itself as “a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” It’s some fantastic programming.
The Bitter End takes a look at end of life decisions, and the wild divergence between the general population and medical professionals. It really is thought provoking, and I’m sure it will be a helpful tool in counseling clients on these end of life issues.
One of my roles as an estate planning attorney is to assist clients in planning for the end of life. Usually the discussion starts with the question, “Do you believe there is a point where it is no longer necessary to take measures to prolong your life?” If you believe the answer is yes, then in North Carolina you would need a type of advance directive called a living will. With a living will, a patient can direct what type of life prolonging measures, if any, may be used in the event of a terminal condition.
The need for a living will becomes ever more important as advances in medicine continue to increase. However, what may be more important than the living will document is the conversation about the extent of care you desire at end of life. [Blasphemous for an estate planning attorney, I know.] There are probably few other conversations with your loved ones that would be more uncomfortable. Hopefully The Bitter End can serve as a good starting point.