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Reconsidering Living Wills

Last update on: Jun 17 2020

A good estate plan includes a lot more than will. Among the documents to be included are medical care documents. The traditional document is a living will. But I’ve downplayed the importance of living wills for years. A better document is the medical care proxy or power of attorney. There are a number of problems with living wills, foremost among them is that they don’t cover a wide range of potential situations. Here’s an article with some real life examples and that suggests the agent/power of attorney approach.

It is hard enough, under the best of circumstances, to know what your family member would want in a particular situation. But add to that the fact that even top doctors can’t predict outcomes very well.

Lee H. Schwamm, vice chairman of the neurology department at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where Mr. Shalline was treated, says that even when he thinks he can predict a patient’s outcome after a stroke, he is wrong 15% to 20% of the time on major outcome measures, such as whether a patient will be able to walk again. “I’ve never seen a living will—and I’ve seen a lot—that speaks to this question of diagnostic uncertainty,” says Dr. Schwamm.

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