Thursday, October 4, 2007

How do you want to die?

Last night was my second night working on my advance health care directives, a very emotional activity that had mean not only in tears, but actually bawling.

If you've never heard of it, advance health care directives is a legal document stipulating what measures you would like doctors to take to prolong – or not prolong – your life when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The reason for doing this is two-fold. The first is to make sure that you are treated in the manner you would like and that health care workers respect your wishes. The second and perhaps more important is to relieve your family and friends of having to make these decisions for you, to have to guess what you might want based on recollections of a conversation you had, for example, a few years ago over a couple of beers while watching a football game.

This type of document first came to my attention this past summer when we visited my family in the US. My parents had written theirs and wanted to it share it with us so that we knew what they wanted and what to expect should a situation such as that outlined in the document ever arose.

I thought it was a wonderful idea and so set out to write my own. I have encouraged Mutsumi to do the same and maybe since I've started mine she will now start hers. Maybe you will, too. You might like to be prepared, though, for some emotional disturbance.

I didn't really expect such a thing. In the back of my mind I knew thinking about such issues was likely to elicit a response. I wasn't prepared for the intensity. I'm not saying the experience was bad. Far from it. Just that it was more than I had anticipated. I also learned some things about myself and my passing that I hadn't considered. As I imagined my last moments, I thought that I would like to die outdoors under the open sky. Such an option had never occurred to me before and I would have never thought to ask for it. But maybe now, if I ever need it, someone might take me outside as a result of this document. And appropriately enough, after I finished writing last night I took my mat up to the roof, lied down under a clear sky and marveled at the stars and the amazing depth of the universe we inhabit.

Here are two documents I used to write my own document. If you live the US, your state government may have a form available. In Europe and Japan I have no idea if any such forms are available or if such documents are commonly used.

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