Thinking about our own mortality can be difficult. But, as we age, some of us get more comfortable with what we know is a natural, inevitable process. It may not seem intuitive, but as we age, most of us would like to discuss our thoughts on our end-of-life decisions, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. It may not be intuitive, but it makes a great deal of sense that we would want to discuss these important decisions with someone. In fact, over 80% of those surveyed want Medicare and/or private insurance to pay for discussions with medical providers about end-of-life decisions. The Centers for Medicare Services (CMS) recently added new billing codes to allow health care providers to be paid for such discussions.
It may or may not surprise you to learn that, in a study of individuals with advanced lung cancer, there was a “significant preference for mitigating suffering, given the option of trading off longevity and quality of life.” In other words, people wanted to live better, not necessarily longer.
This preference for quality of life over longevity may be reflecting the fact that the prevalence of pain, depression, and confusion in the last month or year of life are greater than they were just a decade ago.
Once we make our end-of-life decisions, we should discuss them with an estate planning attorney to draft the appropriate documents. The estate planning attorney is a critically important player. Often we, as estate planning attorneys, raise the topic with the client long before they’ve thought of the topic or discussed it with others. This allows the client to consult with medical providers and family, if they don’t already have a firm decision already.
Just as surely every person starts out as a newborn, every person reaches an end of days. End-of-life decisions are perhaps the most important ones of our lives and it is the privilege of estate planning attorneys to ensure they are carried out.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. . . .” By Dylan Thomas
For further information on the various studies mentioned in this blog, click here.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555