The Tables Are Turned - The Lawyer as Client

Posted By Jay Kaufman || 2-Nov-2011

For Clients, Community and Advisors.

I’ve spent 30 years counseling clients in making choices and giving directions concerning durable powers of attorney for health care and end of life treatment. In the last week, I came face to face with the inevitable decisions that families of my clients have been forced to make. Being a “client” makes me more aware of the very real gut wrenching decisions that families have to make every day. I should explain.

Two weeks ago, my 85 year old father was to have a minimally invasive aortic valve replacement and a stent put into an artery. We were delighted we’d found a young surgeon whose “niche” was this type of surgery. Unfortunately, once the operation started, they discovered that the blocked artery would not take the stress and he had a conventional “open heart” surgery. He subsequently got pneumonia and other complications and has been in intensive care for the last two weeks. I just spent a week in Tucson where they live helping my mother and coordinating his care.

Dad was on a ventilator on at least three occasions. Over last weekend, they recommended that he have a tracheotomy so that they could deal more effectively with the pneumonia. You see, my Dad would never want to live unable to talk or eat. That is not the quality of life he would want. My Mom was certain of it. But, also, Dad is a fighter. He wouldn’t want us to give up. Should Mom consent to placement of the tracheotomy? His health care power of attorney gives her the authority.

I insisted that we consult with the surgeon who stated emphatically that we were not at a futile point. After a very difficult afternoon of phone calls with my sisters, Mom decided to consent to the procedure (which was performed yesterday without incident). We hope that the “trache” will allow him to recoverf from the pneuonia quickly and get him on his way to recovery. It will certainly be a long, slow road.

What lesson can I offer my clients and their advisors from my own family’s recent experience? Of course, it is important to have a durable power of attorney for health care. That determines who gets to make the final decision. It also gives some general direction on end of life care.

But, most importantly, talk to your spouse or your agent about what you would want and, perhaps even more importantly, what you would not want. (Some of our clients, for example, don’t ever want to be put in a nursing home. Others don’t want to be given psychotropic medications.)

The durable power of attorney is only a starting point. We are pleased to add any and all specific directions clients want in their health care power. Our objective is to customize your estate plan to exactly what you want.

More and more of our clients have annual reviews of their estate plans with our firm. This is the case exactly and precisely to ensure that their important and current objectives are incorporated into their plan. In the end, we want their estate plans to work just as they wanted.

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Northbrook Estate Planning Lawyers
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