When my family got together to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday recently, I spent a few hours alone with her going over some end-of-life paperwork. Don't get me wrong -- she's doing great, but knows the value of making sure we understand her will, her finances, and her health care directives, including what to do if she falls into a state where she's kept alive by machines and other artificial means.
It's a conversation that not enough people have with their families, and because of Mom, my wife and I have had the same discussion with our daughter. We all hope that the day we have to deal with this is still a long ways off, but the time to figure it all out is not when tragedy strikes.
The problem with some of those health care directives -- such as a Do Not Resuscitate order -- is that they only work if the medical community goes along. As Dr. Russell Saunders explained on my America Weekend show, even though 88% of doctors don't want to be kept alive in a situation where doing so only prolongs their existence, too many of them don't listen to patients who request the same. We delved into the reasons an MD would ignore the wishes of a patient and family, and how to be sure those end-of-life orders are followed.