According to a recent survey of nearly 8,000 Americans, over two-thirds do not have an Advance Directive, Living Will, Health Care Proxy or similar document. They don’t because they don’t know about them or because they assume their families already know their end-of-life wishes. Unfortunately, the few studies that have looked at the accuracy of family decision-making have also found that most health care proxies might as well just guess what their loved one wants. Surrogate accuracy is only slightly above chance, with rates of accuracy running about 50-65%. This is largely because too many people avoid conversations about end-of-life planning. Talking about death is difficult even under the best of circumstances, let alone our own end-of-life wishes. We all expect to live for decades more. But life is unpredictable, and the only thing that is certain is that none of us get out of it alive. While it might be difficult to contemplate our own mortality, we owe it to those that we love to make sure that they know what we want when the inevitable comes.
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The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.