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During this COVID-19 pandemic, a difficult question especially demands an answer: if you or a loved one is taken down into life-threatening illness, how far would you want extreme life-prolonging measures to be tried?

For those of us who are particularly vulnerable – seniors, those with compromised immune systems, those already struggling with medical conditions – this question is particularly stark.

Many people are familiar with DNR orders, where DNR stands for “do not resuscitate.” These are usually intended for cardiac arrest. The threats posed by the current virus, though, more often implicate breathing problems. The longer time spent on a ventilator, the greater the chances of permanent damage, disability or death .

Many COVID-19 victims are dying alone, without their loved ones present. The New York Times recently reported on a particularly heartbreaking case.

Most people over sixty with a serious illness say they would prefer to be kept in comfort at the end, even if that care shortens life. But where to draw the line? How much time alive would you be willing to sacrifice, to decline aggressive treatment and possibly die sooner? The need to provide at least some answers is important not just for you. Clinicians and caregivers need guidance, too.

A 2017 study showed that approximately two-thirds of Americans had neglected to provide prior guidance by creating advance health-care directives like health care powers of attorney (called “Health Care Proxy” in New York) and living wills. Back then, most of us could not have imagined being in an epidemic like the one we find ourselves now.

Even if you or your loved ones have already done the responsible thing and created your HCP and Living Will, jointly referred to as “advance directives,” now is the time to review those documents to make sure they reflect what you want under current conditions.

Health care providers are ethically obligated to do everything feasible to keep us alive. If we have no advance directives in place, the system will take over – and families can end up in long-lasting anguish for having had to be the ones to make the final call. Don’t let that happen. Think through the question for yourself and talk with a person whom you trust to make that decision for you if it ever comes to that.

For your advance health-care directives, please schedule an appointment by calling 212-920-6371. We have locations in Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Northern New Jersey.

Tags: Health care power of attorney, advance directives, living will

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