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When people are so sick and coming to the end of life, they face many decisions about their medical care. Oftentimes, they are unable to make important decisions due to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, stroke, medication, etc. When that occurs, others need to speak for them.

If you have been asked to speak for someone else, are you ready for that responsibility?

Know what your loved one wanted.
         If your loved one planned for this day, a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (Advanced Directives) have been signed and names you to be the decision-maker. Hopefully, the two of you discussed his or her wishes before the need arises.

         Some questions to consider:

Do you want antibiotics?

Do you want non-invasive tests?

Do you want IV fluids?

Do you want a feeding tube?

Do you want surgery?

Do you want dialysis?

These are just a few questions to get the conversation started. Other questions may come up during that discussion.

Most people do not want extraordinary measures taken like dialysis, ventilators, CPR, etc. The general feeling is to “let me go naturally when the time comes”.

What if your loved one did not sign Advanced Directives? This becomes more difficult for you as a family member. So, what can you do?

Talk to the Doctor to get information on their condition, prognosis, and what is likely to happen if very little is done medically.

Ask the Doctor about the person’s quality of life. Can there be some recovery? Are they in pain? Are they suffering?

Ask the Doctor what types of decisions you may be asked to make.

Ask about the available options. You may need to weigh the benefits of the treatments with the burdens of the treatments.

Talk to other family members to learn if they have knowledge of what your loved one’s wishes are.

Talking to a Social Worker or your priest, rabbi, or minister may be helpful.


Items to Think about when Making Medical Decisions for Someone Else

         It is important to remember to focus on what the person said he or she wanted and not what you would want. If you are unaware of what their wishes are, what do you think they would have wanted? If they could tell you today, what would their wishes be?

Look to the Advanced Directives or think back to conversations you have had with them.

If there are no written guidelines you can determine, as best as you are able, what the person probably would have chosen (submitted judgment).

Think about what the person might think is good or bad about the medical treatment. Will it prolong Life? Does it alleviate pain and suffering? Will it make their quality of life better?


Weigh the benefits and burdens of the treatment. Talk to the doctor, nurses, social worker, and/or clergy to assist you in making an informed decision.

Lastly, remember to sign your own Advanced Directives and talk to your family about your wishes. It is always better to leave a “road map” for them to follow.


      maryann@maryannlegal.com :: phone 440.237.2800