Mesothelioma patients did not choose to be exposed to asbestos and develop this disease. But every mesothelioma patient can and should choose the kinds of medical care they wish to receive as the disease progresses.
By deciding your options early, you can ensure your quality of life and avoid having your family guess your wishes or make critical medical care decisions for you under stress.
California law provides individuals a way to make their health care wishes known and considered when they become unable to make these decisions themselves. The Advanced Health Care Directive is the legal document that allows patients to make their end-of-life care choices ahead of time.
The Two Parts of the California Advance Care Directive
There are two basic kinds of health care documents everyone with mesothelioma should have. First, you need a document naming a trusted person to direct your health care if you are unable to do so yourself. This document is known as a durable power of attorney for health care. It does not give this person the right to make legal or financial decisions for you. That is a different kind of power of attorney.
Second, you need a document that specifies the types of medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in certain situations. This document is often known as a living will.
In California, these two documents are combined into a single form called an advance health care directive.
Writing an advance care directive may be difficult. You need to:
- Know and understand your treatment options
- Decide future treatment options you may want
- Discuss your choices with your family
Although this document does not need to be created by an attorney, you should already be working with an attorney to prepare an estate plan, usually including a family trust, and that attorney should include preparation of these forms as part of the services provided.
Why Mesothelioma Patients Also Need a POLST
Mesothelioma patients also need to complete a one-page document called the POLST, short for Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. You can request one from your doctor’s office.
The decisions documented on the POLST form include whether to:
- Attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation,
- Administer antibiotics and IV fluids,
- Use a ventilator to help with breathing, and
- Provide artificial nutrition by tube.
Does the POLST form replace the Advance Care Directive?
The POLST form supplements advance care directive and is not intended to replace it. It is a medical order and can be used by paramedics and other first responders. It ensures that the preferences expressed in the advance care directive are actually carried out. You also need an Advance Directive to appoint a legal health care decision-maker.