Looking on the bright side of Death
Have you thought about what care you want to receive when you reach the end of your life? During the course of our lives we expend an enormous amount of energy planning where we want to live, what we want to achieve during our lifetimes, but we don’t give much time or thought to what we would like to happen at the end of our lives.
If you have a major health event that robs you of the ability to make your wishes known to your family or to the health professionals responsible for your care, taking some time now to discuss what you want at the end of your life will provide vital guidance if your family have to make decisions about your end of life care.
A Living Will, more commonly known as an Advance Directive, is a document which allows you to give or refuse consent to treatment in the future. It is a statement to others, usually in writing, setting out your preferences in the event that you are unable to communicate with those around you at that time.
Under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights you have the right to use an Advance Directive to make your wishes known about the treatments and care you may receive in the future. Examples might be the desire not to receive blood transfusions, be resuscitated or kept alive with the use of life support systems.
The Code gives a person, who has capacity to make decisions for themselves, the right to make an Advance Directive. However, you should be aware that at present a Living Will or Advanced Directive has no specific statutory status in New Zealand and is therefore not enforceable at law and may not be followed.
When deciding on whether to follow your Advance Directive, your health care professional will try to ensure that:
• you had capacity at the time the Advance Directive was made;
• you made your Advance Directive of your own free will;
• you were informed and understood the decisions you were making; and
• your Advance Directive applies to the current circumstances, whatever they may be.
The trickiest part of an Advance Directive may be discussing your wishes with your family and friends. Many of us don’t like to give much thought to the decisions we may be called on to make should our loved ones be ill and unable to communicate their wishes.
Talking about your Advance Directive with your family is an important conversation and should be an integral part of your estate planning. Once accomplished, it will give you all peace of mind in knowing that should the worst come to pass you will have equipped your family and friends with the information they need to make the right decisions for you.
At Harmans we have experience dealing with estate planning and can help you to formalise your wishes. Give Phillipa Shaw a call on 03 352 2293 to arrange an appointment to discuss your situation.