In an American society, autonomous decisions about end-of-life care are an individual’s right. Ironically, many individuals fail to have written proposals on how their end-of-life treatment should be. In times where patients become incompetent, their failure to write down specific instructions on end-of-life decisions may cause unyielding stress and discomfort to their family members and medical staff.
In the article, “Taking Responsibility for Death”, Susan Jacoby discusses how most Americans prefer the option of being allowed to die over being saved by a physician. More than half of the opinion polls also show that Americans prefer end of treatment if the chances of recovery are slim to nothing and if they were in immense pain. What is interesting is that only a small few of those same people discussed these desires about end-of-life decisions with their spouses, loved ones, and children. This indicates that although there is a desire to maintain free will during end-of-life, there is a gap in initiatives to record those desires. This could be due to the American death denying culture or its habits of procrastination (I am not dying yet, so I don’t need to think about it!)
Regardless of the reasons, Americans have the responsibility to make their own decisions on end-of-life preferences, because it would be easier for the health care staff, for their loved ones, and for themselves. When the individual is unable to make competent decisions or communicate what their true desires are before that lack of competency, it hurts everyone. So, in order to prevent that, Americans should make it a priority to write out a living will. Before writing a living will, the individual should articulate and discuss with their loved ones and physicians what their end-of-life preferences are. Once those issues are discussed, there is no confusion when their end of life does come. During the end-of-life timespan, the patient’s families should respect the patient’s wishes and make it their priority to give them what they want. Sometimes patients or family members don’t know enough to question doctors, but they should be given the right information to make any further decisions concerning their end-of-life treatment. Everybody has a right to question and seek answers from their healthcare provider. At the same time, healthcare providers have the right to accept or refuse certain treatments or medical procedures if they highly feel that it is wrong.
All in all, there should be an awareness within the American society to promote the detailing of end-of-life preferences by individuals to their loved ones and medical staff so that there is a clear agenda of what is to come. This would help lower stress, reduce confusion, decrease wasted time, and eliminate any unnecessary medical expenses. In addition, taking the initiative to understand one’s end-of-life preferences would grant great security to oneself and to one’s family.