Banner Health News Center  

Advance directives give patients,
loved ones, peace of mind


PHOENIX (April 15, 2013) – Do you know what your loved ones want to happen at the end of their life? Do they know what you want? Doris McVey knew the answers to that question when her mother died.

McVey’s mother suffered with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and was being seen in her home by hospice. She had gotten to the point in her disease process where she did not want to keep being rushed to the Emergency department whenever she got into distress. After a particularly difficult night, she often said to her daughter, “I’m ready to be beamed up.” McVey’s mother had written her advance directives outlining specifically what she wanted when the end came and more importantly, how she wanted to get there. She also had prehospital directives that included her wearing a bracelet that instructed paramedics that she was not to be transported to the hospital if she took a turn for the worse.

“My mother’s advance driectives spared us the pain of making these decisions,” McVey explained. “If she didn’t have the advance directives she would have eventually be placed on a respirator. Mom did not want to go the the Emergency department. She was on oxygen at home. She was sick of being stuck, probed and poked. She told us she wanted to die at home between her flannel sheets.”

Advance directives come in two forms:

  • A medical power of attorney, which names a patient’s health care proxy (a person trusted to make health decisions if the patient is unable to do so).
  • A living will that documents what kinds of treatment a patient would want at the end of life.

McVey’s mother, because she was in the terminal stage of her COPD, also had the prehospital directives that gave implicit instructions that she was not to be transported to the hospital when the end came.

The day before she died, McVey’s mother celebrated the birthday of her grandchild. It was a wonderful day and she was looking the picture of health. The next morning, her father called to tell McVey that her mother was dying. He wanted to call the paramedics and his daughter told him not to. It was not what his wife wanted. Calming her father, Mcvey said, “Pull up the sheets, lie down next to her and tell her how much she was loved.” When McVey arrived at the house, her father said, “Come see Mom. She is so comfortable. The agony of breathing is over.”

The number of people with living wills has increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2005, according to a recent federal research on the subject. However, less than 50 percent of severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record. Banner Health has put together information about advance directives to help you and your loved ones know where to start.

About Banner Health
Headquartered in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the largest, nonprofit health care systems in the country. The system manages 23 acute-care hospitals, the Banner Health Network and Banner Medical Group, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services including family clinics, home care and hospice services, and a nursing registry. Banner Health is in seven states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.

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