The Importance of a Living Will

by Kay Lynn

Andy Miller @ Wallet Pop recently wrote about dealing with a dying father without a living will. His story brought tears to my eyes for more than one reason.  Yes, I felt sympathy and empathy for Mr. Miller and his family. I also was remembering what my siblings and I went through six years ago with our own father.  Losing a parent is very hard; but battling to lose that parent is even harder.

If anyone should have put advanced directives in place it was my dad. He had small cell lung cancer which has an extremely low survival rate and a median life expectancy of 18-24 months after diagnosis.  Dad, who had quite smoking 7 years earlier after a stroke, fought it with chemotherapy, radiation and his spirit.  Despite the dire diagnosis my father did not write a legal will or health care directives.

My stepmother called us when dad went into the intensive care unit and was put on a ventilator.  His lungs were giving out on him due to the cancer and, ironically, the treatment damage.  Three of us traveled from out of state.  When the last one arrived, my dad awoke for the final time and signaled he wanted the ventilator removed.  He was just waiting to see us one last time.

Over the next couple of days, doctors advised my stepmother there was nothing that could be done for dad medically and recommended he be removed from the ventilator.  His four children agreed with this recommendation.  My stepmother would not even consider removing the ventilator.

In trying to honor our father’s wishes there were multiple (sometimes intense) discussions with his wife.  We could not understand why she would want dad to continue suffering when there was no hope.  You see the problem was..she truly believed he would get well.

A week later, we were preparing to go home as our families and employers needed us and there was no change.  The doctors called a meeting that included my stepmother, my calm sister, my uncle and other hospital personnel.  They somehow convinced her to remove the ventilator and Dad passed away peacefully a couple of hours later.

Fortunately,  our relationship with our stepmother was not too damaged and we banded together to plan the funeral and bury dad.  But the bad memories persist.  One document could have changed the experience for my father and the rest of the family.

Now, do I have a living will?  Not yet but I am committing to get this done by the end of the year.  What about you?
Photo by Bucksome Boomer

Content © Bucksomeboomer  2009.  All Rights Reserved.

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