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Saturday, September 12, 2009

If you can fix me, please do: A living will

Here's Dr. John Dykers Jr.'s end of life plan, in a letter to Annie's Mailbox:

I'm glad you brought up the end-of-life plan dilemma faced by 'Aunt Thelma, Uncle John, and my Marie.’'I am a doctor, and my patients have embraced my own end-of-life plan as follows:

"If you can fix me, please do. If you can't fix me, please help me avoid pain, fear, lack of air, hunger, nausea, thirst, loss of dignity, and prolonging the dying process. I understand it might take a few days for you to figure out whether you can fix me or not."

This format helps facilitate conversation between generations without the feeling of abandonment. Most of us old folks don't fear death as much as the process of dying or prolonged disability.

Advice: Send this to your parents, suggesting it as a default living will. If they want to revise or discuss it, so much the better.

Read another living will story. Thanks to Dr. Dykers, whose letter appeared in the Boston Globe on Sept. 9.

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