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Doctor reminds Florida of importance of healthcare directives

West Palm Beach residents may not have thought yet about medical directives as an important component of an estate plan, even though such directives can specify one's wishes for end-of-life care. One doctor recently took the opportunity in the Sun Sentinel to remind Floridians that healthcare directives represent the only way to exercise your right to make medical decisions should you become incapacitated. Additionally, the doctor urges everyone to prepare healthcare directives in order to avoid unnecessary medical expenses.

According to studies, only about a third of Americans have prepared advance healthcare directives. However, the preparation of advance directives need not be overly time-consuming or expensive. A comprehensive set of healthcare directives might consist of a living will, a healthcare proxy and healthcare powers of attorney. The costs associated with preparing all the necessary documents pales in comparison to the costs associated with unwanted medical care.

The doctor's commentary in the Sun Sentinel illustrates the importance of healthcare directives through a fictional but truth-based story about an elderly nursing home patient being brought into the emergency room. In the story, hospital staff members realize that the woman has suffered from years of dementia, but the staff has no choice but to provide life-sustaining care. In the absence of advance directives, doctors must make efforts to keep a patient alive, even when it results in suffering for the patient.

That is one important reason for Americans to take the relatively simple steps necessary to avoid wasteful and, in many cases, hurtful medical procedures. The moral of the story is that if more Americans prepare healthcare directives, doctors would be able to deliver more humane care at a lesser expense. And that kind of planning is a good thing for all parties involved.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Patient input critical in end-of-life decisions," Dan Morhaim, June 30, 2012

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