Coronavirus Pandemic Highlights the Importance of Clear Health Care Directives
CNN published a heart wrenching article by Louis Foglia that detailed his father’s last days and tragic passing as a result of COVID-19. Foglia’s article provided an immersive experience into the intense stress, anxiety and uncertainty that accompanies having a loved one in the hospital struggling to stay alive due to the Coronavirus. Foglia’s father battled the Coronavirus for 31 days but ultimately succumbed to the deadly virus.
I strongly encourage you to take the time to read Foglia’s article from start to finish. It both encapsulates the life and memory of his father while also highlighting the immense importance of certain estate planning documents while someone is nearing the end of their life. For example, Foglia discusses the venture into his family home to try and locate a copy of his father’s Health Care Directive and Last Will and Testament.
While reading Foglia’s article, I got the sense that estate planning and end-of-life care was never a topic of discussion between Foglia and his father. Foglia describes the need to go through his father’s papers in the hopes of locating the aforementioned medical directive and will. Unfortunately, many families wind up in the same boat and are forced to expend valuable time and resources trying to locate estate planning and health care documents.
It is important to not only create a clear medical directive and estate plan, but to ensure the individual you selected to manage your estate knows where these vital documents are located.
Foglia’s article also captures the anxiety and guilt associated with reading his father’s estate documents and realizing that his medical care may have already gone against his wishes. For example, Foglia’s father expressly stated in his medical directive that he did not want to be supported by a ventilator or hooked up to a feeding tube for any length of time. By the time Foglia located this directive, his father had been connected to both for close to two weeks.
Talk about your estate plan and medical directive with your loved ones, especially the individual you’ve entrusted to manage your estate. They should not be surprised or tasked with deciphering an ambiguous statement or directive. When you have the discussion beforehand, it saves your loved ones from having to endure unnecessary stress, pain, and guilt.
Another important aspect of Foglia’s story is the reference to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. Fortunately, Foglia’s father had taken the time to draft a directive that addressed this very important issue of whether or not resuscitative measures should be deployed.
Make sure your estate plan and medical directive contain a clear statement about whether or not a DNR order should be utilize for your care.
My deepest condolences go out to Mr. Foglia. I empathize with his experience since I lost my father years ago to a debilitating illness and encountered similar issues and challenges when attempting to manage his affairs and health care decisions near the end of his life. The stress and anxiety induced by that experience is one of the reasons why I devoted myself to practicing in trust and estate law.
None of us can avoid death, but we all have the ability to take proactive steps that can help reduce unneeded stress and anxiety for our loved ones when we near the end of our journey on this Earth. That is why I implore you to take action and draft an estate plan sooner rather than later. If the Coronavirus pandemic has taught us nothing else, it is that life is precious.