Friday, July 7, 2017

"Does your mother have a living will?" a personal account - Estate Planning

My mother went into the hospital for semi-elective surgery. It wasn't necessary for her survival but she wanted the procedure hoping it would improve the quality of her life. She wanted to repair injuries to her body left from other surgeries after a serious illness two years ago.

Image courtesy of artur84
My sister is a nurse and works in the hospital where my mother was being treated. She is my mother's designated healthcare agent.

After the surgery, things did not go as well as we expected. She was in the hospital about two weeks with some good days and some bad days. My sister is usually calm, cool, and collected but I could tell even she was concerned.

One morning she called me to tell me the hospital called her at 3 AM and ask her, "does your mother still have a living will?" As my sister was talking the hair on the back of my neck raised up. Obviously, my mother was having some serious issues and they wanted to preform a procedure.

Two issues arose immediately. First, my sister knew (and I agree) my mother probably would not have wanted the procedure the doctors were recommending. Second, my sister knew my mother was aware and capable of making her own decision. The doctors may have known my mother would reject their advice.
My sister told the doctors, "my mom can make her own decision and we can talk to her later." Later that day, the hospital offered my mother three options. The first option and their recommendation would have significantly increased her chance of survival but would have further diminished her quality of life. To what extent we were not sure. The second option was a temporary solution which would give her body time to heal if it was able. The third option was to do nothing and the doctors were pretty sure she would not survive.
My mother selected the temporary option. We knew she would terminate the treatment as scheduled no matter what the result. If fact, she terminated the temporary treatment five days early anyway. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact my mother decided to risk death over surviving but with a degradation in her quality of life. But that was her choice.
My sister may not have made the decision for her as her healthcare agent but she did protect my mother's right to decide for herself.  Without the living will giving my sister authority to answer for my mom, the hospital may have imposed its judgment upon my mother.

By the way ... my mother survived this ordeal and has more mobility than she would have if she followed her doctors' advice. She is a tough old bird ... living on her own ... raising cane as she always has.

It is good my sister had the authority of the living will and that we knew what my mother wanted for her life and in her death when the time comes. It made a tough experience less stressful. 

If you want to work on your estate plan, need assistance, legal representation, or just want to know more about Mark M. Medvesky or Wells, Hoffman, Holloway & Medvesky LLP, check out our website at

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