Leading the way in preparing for your death is one of the biggest gifts you can give your family. It is also a gift to yourself as the process naturally involves spiritual growth, and will allow you to follow Jesus’ example of responding in faith to God’s promptings. Please know that discussing your wishes with family members is more important than any form you complete. Without the conversation, the legal document could turn out to be worthless!
Since only God knows the circumstances of our deaths, we cannot foresee every decision that will come up. However, we can prepare to the best of our abilities. Here is a guide for families making ethical decisions at life’s end, written by Rev. Dr. Richard Eyer of The Concordia Bioethics Institute.
“If approached by a medical staff person about initiating or continuing life support measures, always ask to talk to the patient’s physician. Asking the following questions may be helpful in making decisions compatible with the patient’s and the Christian decision-maker’s faith.
1. What is the medical condition of the patient at this time? You are asking for an objective medical evaluation, not a philosophical opinion.
2. What is the prognosis? You are asking whether the patient is expected to recover or not.
3. Is the patient dying at this time? If the patient is not dying it would be morally wrong to intend to cause death.
4. Is the patient awake? If so, you will want to discuss his or her condition with the patient and offer to pray for guidance before a decision is made.
5. Is the patient in any pain at this time? You are asking whether pain gives urgency to your decision.
6. If a decision is needed immediately, err on the side of life, not death. If a decision is not needed momentarily, say, “I need time to talk with my family and/or pastor and I will call you within ________ length of time.”
7. If the situation allows, leave the hospital and meet with your family and pastor or trusted friends in a prayerful environment. The distance from the hospital environment sometimes helps you think more clearly. Make sure you tell the nurse you are leaving.”
Living life connected to Jesus sets us apart from the world. When our decisions reflect the value God places on life and the belief that heaven is waiting, even our dying can point others to Christ.
What would you like your family members to know before they are asked to make an end-of-earthly-life decision for you?