Over the past several months, a couple of prominent news stories have focused national attention on important questions about death, dying, and individual decisions. The cases of Marlise Munoz and Jahi McMath have both centered around brain death. In the Munoz case, Marlies Muñoz was placed on life support against her husband’s wishes, while in the McMath case, Jahi was placed on life support against the wishes of her doctors.
Both cases highlight how important it is to not only consider your individual choices in the face of various medical situations, but also to discuss with your family your personal thoughts and desires.
The Questions Many People Don’t Want to Face
How do you want to die? What kind of medical treatment do you want to refuse if you have a terminal illness? Do you believe that being brain dead is the same as being dead?
Regardless of your spiritual, religious, or moral beliefs, all of these questions, and those like them, are very personal in nature. What you might want to happen to you in the future is only for you to decide.
Yet asking yourself these types of difficult questions is often very difficult to do. We have a natural tendency to shy away from questions about our own mortality, especially when those questions cause us to be uncomfortable or afraid.
Starting the Conversation
If asking ourselves important questions about our own mortality is hard, having conversations about the topic, or about the mortality of others, can be even more difficult. Do you know what your spouse would want if she became incapacitated tomorrow? What about your children? Would they know your desires? Would they know what kind of medical treatment you do or do not want to receive if you can no longer communicate?
Having these conversations with your closest family members and loved ones is important, yet starting them is very difficult. This is why the Muñoz and McMath cases can be so important. By thinking about what has happened to others, and asking ourselves what we would want to happen if we were in their place, we can more easily begin the discussion of these difficult topics.
If you haven’t addressed these questions and have them discuss your wishes with your family, you can use the McMath and Munoz examples to begin the conversation. Once you’ve opened the discussion, you might then considered contacting the local estate planning attorney to discuss your legal options in ensuring your wishes will be honored. You can also use your discussions with your lawyer as a way to start thinking about other important questions, such as inheritance choices, burial wishes, and other related topics.