Elder Law lawyer

Who Makes Decisions Regarding End Of Life?

In Uncategorized by Garrett, Walker, Aycoth & Olson, Attorneys at Law

Decisions regarding end-of-life care and treatment can involve multiple parties, depending on various factors such as the individual’s advance care wishes, legal framework, medical condition, and family dynamics. As our friends at McCarthy Law, LLC can share, some key stakeholders involved in making these decisions may include: 

  • The Individual: If they are of sound mind and able to communicate, the individual themselves often play a central role in making decisions about their end-of-life care. This can include choices of medical treatments, pain management, and quality of life considerations such as DNRs. Individual’s also may choose to have their end-of-life care in their home which also requires a special out-of-hospital order. If the individual does not have an advance care plan, other decision-making strategies may be used to determine their end-of-life care.

    Other considerations may include cultural or religious influences when choosing their end-of-life care. It is crucial for the medical professionals to know the individual’s influences and respected plans to carry out the best possible care.  

  • Family Members or Loved Ones: Close family members or designated loved ones often play a significant role in the decision-making process, especially if the individual is unable to communicate their wishes. Family members may provide emotional support, advocate for the individual’s preferences, and work with healthcare providers to make decisions aligned with the individual’s values and beliefs. During this process it is better to substitute judgment for the individual’s best interests. If the individual is of sound mind having someone with when discussing end-of-life care is beneficial. 
  • Healthcare Providers: Medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and hospice care teams, provide expertise and guidance in end-of-life care decisions. They offer information about treatment options, prognosis, and the potential benefits and burdens of various interventions. Healthcare providers also collaborate with patients and their families to develop care plans that prioritize the individual’s comfort and dignity.

  • Legal Authorities: In some cases, legal authorities crafted by an elder law lawyer  such as advance directives, living wills, and healthcare proxies may dictate end-of-life decisions when the individual is unable to make decisions for themselves. These legal documents outline the individual’s preference regarding medical treatments and appoint a trusted person to make healthcare decisions on their behalf. It is imperative to have a trusted lawyer to assist in drafting and executing these documents. 
  • Ethics Committees or Consultation Services: Hospitals and healthcare institutions often have ethics committees or consultation services that can provide guidance and support in complex end-of-life decision-making situations. These committees may include healthcare professionals, ethicists, clergy members, and legal experts who can help navigate ethical dilemmas and ensure that decisions align with the individual’s values and best interests. 

Ultimately end-of-life decision-making is a collaborative process involving participation from the individual, their loved ones, healthcare providers, and many times legal and ethical considerations. Open communication is key, and respect for the individual’s autonomy, and a focus on compassionate care are essential principles guiding these decisions. As a reminder when making decisions for someone’s end of life care can be a very sensitive topic. It is imperative to be prepared ahead of time to prevent any communication barriers in the future.

If you need help regarding end of life decisions, contact a lawyer near you for help.