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Families Need To Communicate
January 1, 2005
Donna Bales, executive director of the Kansas LIFE Project, suggests these conversation-starters:
• What do "quality of life," "heroic measures" and "dying with dignity" mean
• What kind of care would you want if you were unable to speak for yourself? What
are your hopes and fears about the medical treatments you might or might not receive?
• What makes life worth living or, conversely, not worth living?
"It sounds morbid, I know," Bales said. "But there is no greater gift you can
give your family than letting them know what kind of end-of-life care you want,
so that when the time comes, they'll know they're doing what you want them to do."
Bales said she had lost count of the calls from families torn apart by disagreements
about end-of-life decisions.
"No parent wants that (for their surviving children), but it's the risk we take
when these things don't get talked about," she said.
Also critical, Bales said, are living wills and the designation of a durable power
of attorney for health care decisions.
"A durable power of attorney for health care decisions takes effect anytime the
affected person cannot speak for themselves," Bales said. "A living will only takes
effect if two doctors agree the individual's condition is terminal.
"It's great to have both, but we focus on durable power for health care decisions.
Of the two, it's the more important."
Living wills and durable-power-of-attorney designations can be done without a lawyer.
(Note that you can create your Will, Power of Attorney and Living Will online at
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