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Medical facilities need to honor medical directives

Florida residents are likely aware that there are legal documents that can be executed to proclaim a person's desires with regard to end-of-life treatment. Among these are healthcare proxies and medical directives. It seems to go without saying that, for these documents to work, they must be respected and followed by the staff at nursing homes and hospitals.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. For example, a Lakeland woman who had executed both a medical directive, detailing her wishes about extraordinary life-extending measures, and a healthcare proxy, designating her daughter to make decisions about her treatment, apparently had those wishes ignored by a nursing home and hospital. Extraordinary measures were taken that extended the woman's life for a few days, against her own and her daughter's wishes. The daughter has now brought a lawsuit against both facilities.

According to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, 15 nursing homes have been cited in the past three years for failure to follow advanced directives. Experts have opined that the problem may be related to the lack of training of nursing home staff.

Deciding to let a loved one go is an agonizing decision, but the pain can be eased by the knowledge that the decision is part of the loved one's wishes. A medical directive will let others know exactly what life-extending treatments a person wants to be subjected to, and which ones they don't. A healthcare proxy will allow a person to designate a trusted individual to make decisions about treatment in case of incapacity. It is important that hospitals and nursing homes take end-of-life documents seriously, but even more important that those documents be executed correctly. Making a medical directive and a healthcare proxy part of an estate plan may help ease the burden on grieving relatives.

Source: theledger.com, "Advance Directives: The Right To Limit Treatment," Oct. 10, 2013

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