My husband and I adopted our first child, Tommy, from Guatemala in 2005. The process took two long years to complete. As we prepared to bring Tommy home to Minnesota, we knew we needed to get a family will and trust in place to ensure that, if anything happened to us, our children would be provided for.
Providentially, my husband had signed up for a group legal plan through his employer. This benefit provided a network of attorneys to write a will and trust for us. We selected an attorney and met with him. He outlined the will preparation process and asked us a series of questions. We were prepared for the first questions, including “Who do you want to care for your children if you should both pass away?” However, as we moved along, the questions got progressively more challenging. For example:
- Who do you want to designate to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make them?
- What kinds of medical treatment do you want to receive?
- Should you be kept alive on a ventilator or with a tube that feeds you or provides fluids to you artificially? If so, under what circumstances would you want to receive those?
- If your breathing stops or your heart stops beating, do you want to be resuscitated? If so, under what circumstances?
When we had set the appointment, our goal was to answer all questions definitively so we could return in another week or so and sign our will and trust document. Nevertheless, when the attorney asked us to state our medical preferences for possible future circumstances, my husband and I blankly looked at each other. It quickly became apparent that we needed time to do some research. Being passionately pro-life, I wanted to make life-affirming elections. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t certain what constituted life-affirming healthcare. Thankfully, we took the time to do further research before answering these crucially important questions.
Why I am writing about this now? Well, recently, a HALO board member reminded me that, if you have a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order on file, it will make you ineligible for a respirator to treat COVID-19 and other illnesses. If my husband and I hadn’t done our research back in 2005, we each would have opted to have a DNR on file – and our DNR’s would still be on file today. Those DNR’s would make us ineligible for a ventilator should we be diagnosed with COVID-19 and need to be placed on one.
What’s right? What’s wrong? How do I decide?
HALO’s fact sheet called “Life-Affirming Principles for Medical Decision-Making” explains seven basic principles that will help you make life-affirming, medically appropriate, sensible, and informed health care decisions. This fact sheet is an easy to use tool designed to help you formulate and discuss your values and wishes. Click here.