Thursday, February 7, 2013

Insisting on the Final Word

Happy Fernandez, a joie de vivre
She had polio at age 10 and fought back to become a competitive tennis player. Seeing her on the court, even at age 73, was like watching a performance of balance and grace, her friends said. Then there was her mind – sharp, engaged.
And if anyone had a question about her stubborn determination, it was answered by her extraordinary living will.
When Happy Fernandez suffered a massive stroke recently, her family knew exactly what they had to do. She left no possibility that she might continue living if it were not in the fullest possible way. Plus, she didn’t want to be the recipient of extensive – and futile – medical care.

Have you written your living will? Would you make such a choice?    
With her family’s permission, here are excerpts from Happy’s living will, written several years before her death last month (the bold is all hers):                                                                                  
"I want this letter to supplement any living will to make clear how I feel.
Seeing … many older people … 'ware housed' and kept alive by drugs and food at great expense to the public via Medicare and other health care systems, I do NOT want to be kept alive by any machines, medicines or other means when I have lost mental and physical abilities to care for myself. If I am in a state where I no longer am able to ask for assistance to die with dignity, this letter should be taken as a directive and request.
I do not want health care services to be wasted or used to keep me alive when by accident, stroke or other mishaps I am not able to speak, feed myself, walk, see, hear and/or otherwise function as a human being. Please do not use any means to keep me alive surgery, nutrition, drugs, etc. I am appalled at “wasting health care resources” to care for me if my mind and/or body are so wasted. I have lived more than a full life every day is a gift after having polio at age 10 and the scare of post-polio syndrome in 1992. I have lived a full and useful life and feel ready to die if a stroke, heart attack, brain tumor or other terminal disease strikes me.
I want any public or private family or insurance dollars to be used to nurture the development of the next generation, here in the United States or in other democracies such as India, who are faced with huge problems of poverty and the mistreatment of women and children.
I would like to be allowed to starve to death or die quickly of pneumonia or an infection if I have some such disease or accident. Please take this as an honest and binding addendum to any living will that I have signed.
I realize that this is very difficult for my sons and my beloved Dick who I have loved so much since we met in 1959 at Sebago, but please respect my wishes and do not prolong my life, which has been filled with so many joys of loving you and your families.
A Happy Life Partner, Mom and Mama.”

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