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Making Wishes Known

Advance Directives

Preventing unnecessary heartache and turmoil for families.

To ensure the documents are drafted and executed in a legally binding manner, Rodriguez-Diaz suggests people seek the assistance of an attorney, specifically one specializing in elder law or trusts and estates.

What to include in advance directives may be confusing to the 68 percent of Latinos who identify themselves as Catholic, since the Roman Catholic Church prohibits stopping basic care, including hydration and nutrition. “We can allow a person to die when the end is coming, but we may not kill a person,” says the Rev. Alfred Cioffi, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. He helped the Florida Catholic Conference create the Catholic Declaration on Life and Death, advance directives in English and Spanish that blend the functions of a living will and health care power of attorney, taking into account Catholic doctrine. “Anyone can download that document and maybe just make minor adjustments according to particular state law,” the priest says.

Communicating Your Wishes

Once your advance directives are in order, make sure to give copies to your doctors, surrogate, attorney, and family, and take the papers with you when you go to the hospital. It’s best to communicate in advance with relatives and medical providers about these difficult issues to avoid conflicts later and to give others peace of mind. Under federal law, medical facilities must also inform patients upon admission that they have the right to make advance directives and have them respected. Most experts agree, however, that it’s better to contemplate end-of-life issues in your living room, not the emergency room.

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