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Myths about End-of-Life Issues

Editor’s note: Having a living will or a health care power of attorney is one of the most significant steps you can take to control the end of life. Understandably, the thought of creating these documents can be frightening. And there are some myths that contribute to the fear Here, the experts from Harvard Medical School separate truth from mistaken beliefs about this and other end-of-life issues:

Is More Care Always Better?

Not always, even though extraordinary lifie-prolonging measures have become fairly common. According to the experts from Harvard, more care can prolong dying without taking into account the patient’s quality of life. . Sometimes more care prolongs the dying process without respect for quality of life or comfort. A healthcare team can hep patients decide which treatments or interventions would be appropriate.

Refusing life support means your loved ones won’t get your life insurance, because you’re killing yourself.

No one commits suicide by refusing life support, the Harvard experts say. A patient’s illness or condition is the cause of death.

Medical treatment can’t be stopped.

Legally speaking, whether you refuse to start a treatment or decide to stop it is the same thing. You or your representative can decide on a treatment to see if it works, and then end it later on. But, the Harvard experts caution, stopping treatment can be more difficult emotionally difficult than not starting it.

If you refuse life-extending treatments, you’re refusing all treatments.

Even if you don’t choose to have a life-extending treatment, the Harvard experts say that you are still entitled to any care you might want or need. This is especially true, the experts say, for pain and symptom management.

Refusing artificial nutrition causes pain for a dying person.

The Harvard experts say that for someone who is dying, declining IV nutrition or hydration does not cause pain, unlike keeping food or water from a healthy person.

For more on setting goals for end-of-life care and avoiding common pitfalls, buy Living Wills: A guide to advance directives, health care power of attorney, and other key documents, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

You can also take a look at different state directives here, from the nonprofit Caring Connections.

 

 Editor’s note: Having a living will or a health care power of attorney is one of the most significant steps you can take to control the end of life. Understandably, the thought of creating these documents can be frightening. And there are some myths that contribute to the fear Here, the experts from Harvard Medical School separate truth from mistaken beliefs:

Is More Care Always Better?

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