Doctor’s Input Valuable When Creating Advance Directive

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With Baby Boomer’s entering retirement, there has been a push in the media to encourage people over 60 to create their own Advance Directive.

The New York Times published an interesting story about a service that helps people navigate what can be a confusing process. Good Medicine Consult & Advocacy acts as a professional conduit between patients and doctors when drafting Advance Directives. The service was founded by Dr. Jennifer Brokaw, a former ER physician who witnessed firsthand many doctors not honoring their patients’ wishes during crisis situations.

In countless cases, “the emergency room doctor has to advocate for patients,” Dr. Brokaw said. “I wanted to head things off at the pass by communicating both with patients and physicians.”

Even with the current awareness surrounding the issue, she believes the communication gap between patients and doctors remains “huge.” While a quarter of Americans currently have Advance Directives only 12 percent receive a doctor’s input when writing the document. Most are still done alone or with a lawyer.

“Your lawyer shouldn’t be writing a medical contract any more than you’d want your doctor to write a legal contract,” Dr. Brokaw said.
Multiple conversations are important to write an effective plan. “It isn’t just one conversation. It’s at least three conversations.”
If you are writing your own Advance Directive, here are a few suggestions:

  • Involve your family so they share your goals
  • Appoint a durable power of attorney
  • Specify who makes decisions if you are incapacitated
  • Specify what actions should and shouldn’t be taken to extend life
  • Have multiple discussions before you reach a critical period
  • Focus on what you want your end of life experience to be
  • Review your Advance Directive at least every 10 years

Read the full story and learn more about writing Advance Directives here.

One Response to “Doctor’s Input Valuable When Creating Advance Directive”

  1. Joe Reisinger

    My hat is off to Dr. Jennifer Brokaw for having created a valuable service to protect the sanctity of the most personal of wishes for those who can no longer advocate for themselves.

    As a veteran of two successful marriages, raising four children to adulthood, 27 semesters of college teaching and devoting much of my 40 years as a trial lawyer to doing nearly 500 divorces and representing over 400 lawyers (mainly for their malpractice insurers), I have more than just a causal awareness of failed communications. The overwhelming majority of communication failures stemmed from consensual relationships where the participants were normal, healthy, alive, and desperately wanted their communications to succeed. Taking on the challenge of helping those who by definition are “communicatively impaired” is a monumental step toward bringing justice and liberty to perhaps the most unrepresented and unliberated segment of society.

    My hope for Dr. Brokaw is that the concerns behind her “Good Medicine Consult & Advocacy” find their way into the mainstream law school curriculum. Such a movement would help retard the industrialization we’ve seen in law practice with the advent of pre-packaged word processed “legal text” and check-the-box form pleadings. It used to be that lawyers represented their clients. Then we moved to an era where “living wills” (inter vivos trusts and all the other estate planning documents) are sold to senior citizens in cheap hotel conference rooms using the same business model as real estate vendors hawking vacation timeshares. Not only does the “one-size-fits-all” mentality needed for industrialization fail to address specific needs of specific individuals, but word processing companies typically have no assets to speak of, nor can they acquire legal malpractice insurance. I see the greater value in Dr. Brokaw’s offer in helping bring public awareness to the ontological point that having an Advance Directive is not a “thing”, i.e., a noun, like a commodity. Rather, it is a verb: an expression of personal intention designed to trigger specific action in fulling that intention.

    I light of this broader public purpose behind Dr. Brokaw’s organization, thanks must also be extended to for a job well done in bringing this issue to public awareness.

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