Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin has written 13 best-selling books that have been translated into 33 languages. His advice and insight are regularly quoted, and his work has become a staple in classrooms and college courses spanning multiple fields of study.
In his ever-present eloquence, he recently made a blog post on SethGodin.com that is simply a must-read for everyone, especially those of us getting up there in age. I’ll include the whole thing here, so please take a moment to let it settle in.
How Do You Want to Die?
Let’s assert that you’re almost certainly not going to be the very first person to live forever.
Also worth noting that you’re probably going to die of natural causes.
The expectations we have for medical care are derived directly from marketing and popular culture. Marcus Welby and a host of medical shows taught us about the heroic doctor, and more than that, about the power of technology and intervention to reliably deliver a cure.
It’s not a conspiracy–it’s just the result of many industries that all profit from the herculean effort and expense designed to extend human life, sometimes at great personal cost. Hence the question: Do you want to choose whether or not you will be a profit center in the ever scaling medical-industrial complex? One percent of the population accounts for 30% of all health care expenditures, and half of those people are elderly.
Most of that care is designed to prolong life, regardless of the cost, the pain or the impact on the family. A lot of doctors are uncomfortable with this, but they need you to speak up and make a choice (in advance) about what you’d like. Some people want the full treatment, intervention at all costs.
If that’s your choice, go for it. But be clear, in writing, that you’d like to spare no expense and invest in every procedure, even if it’s pointless and painful. Don’t be selfish and let someone else have to guess.
On the other hand, you have the right to speak up and stand up and clearly state if you’d prefer the alternative. Many people prefer a quiet dignity that spares them and their family pain and trauma. But you have to do it now, because later is too late.
The web makes it easy to generate and sign a simple generic form. Or even better, go find the forms state by state. (If those pages are down, try a search on “health care proxy” and the name of your state.) [A reader also suggests MyDirectives.] [And consider the Five Wishes.]
There are two critical components: assigning an individual to be your health care proxy, and then telling that proxy, in writing, what you’d like done (and not done) to you when the time comes.
If every person who reads this sits down with his or her family and talks this through (and then tells a few friends), we’ll make a magnificent dent in the cultural expectation of what happens last.
It’s free, it’s not difficult, it takes five minutes. Do it today if you can, whatever your wishes are.
Don’t make the people you love guess and then live with the memory of that guessing.
Some things are more likely to happen if you plan for them. In this case, the end comes whether you plan for it or not. Planning merely makes it better.
Seth is absolutely right on this one – everyone should consider these tough questions, and a put a plan in place before it’s too late. There is no right or wrong answer, you simply have to make the choice that aligns with your wishes, and it’s entirely up to you.
Consult your attorney and medical professionals to make sure you understand your options, and just what decisions you’re making. Listen to Seth – planning is your best course of action.
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