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Mesothelioma end-of-life decisions are difficult to make and require a team of medical specialists, legal and financial experts, and family for information and support. Patients and their loved ones must make choices about treatment, hospice, legal actions, and finances.
End-of-Life Medical Decisions
As mesothelioma progresses, you and your family will need to carefully consider important issues. These include deciding on what medical treatments are seen most appropriate.
Your medical team will continue to have important discussions along the way about how to best meet your goals. Some medical treatments may not improve the quality or duration of life, so it is essential to have continual conversations with your care team about what is most important to you.
Deciding to pursue additional treatments versus stopping are personal choices. Family members or close friends can help support your wishes and help focus on what your goals are. Because these people love you and have your best interests in mind, their advice can help clarify your decisions.
In addition to choosing whether to continue with treatment, you will have other important decisions about medical care. This includes formulating a plan for dying naturally versus medical interventions to restart your heart or lungs. This is referred to as Code Status.
A Full Code means you want every medical intervention done to bring you back to life, often including ventilation via intubation. A DNR status, or Do Not Resuscitate, means you prefer to die naturally, and no additional medical interventions will be made to revive you if your heart or lungs stop working.
You will also want to decide the extent of life support you will want in your final days. You can make specific choices about ventilators, feeding tubes, IV hydration, pain management, and antibiotics. This is all based upon what you desire and what is most important to you.
These topics might be difficult for family to understand and accept, so open communication is healthy and helpful. Talking about these topics ahead of time will reduce the stress and burden on your family members.
It can also be helpful to put your wishes down in writing. This eliminates a panic situation with your family making decisions in emergent situations without knowing what you would have wanted.
Legal End-of-Life Decisions
A Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) is a legal document that designates others to make decisions for you if you cannot do so. Each state has a form and generally speaking, it identifies a primary person as well as many backup individuals as you wish. This can be a spouse, family member, or friend, but it should be someone close to you.
A lawyer can help you fill out these documents for a fee. Most medical offices or hospitals can help you fill these out for free and ask either a notary or witnesses to confirm the legality of these forms.
A living will is another important legal document for end-of-life decisions. This provides specific information for the person you designate as your MPOA. This may include specific directions regarding feeding tubes, IV hydration, specifics around intubation, or other invasive medical treatments.
A living will does not designate someone to make medical decisions for you. That can only be done by someone you have given durable power of attorney for health care. You should complete this legal step to ensure someone you trust can make decisions for you.
A lawyer can craft legal documents regarding end-of-life care. Many medical offices and hospitals also offer this service free of charge, so depending on your preferences, you can do it at any location of your choosing.
Once finalized, share these documents with your medical care team and any family member involved in your care. They can also be updated if your wishes change. It is important to discuss the contents of your living will and advance directives with loved ones, so they know what to expect.
Financial End-of-Life Decisions for Mesothelioma Patients
A will is an essential legal document for making end-of-life decisions about your finances. The more detail you provide concerning your money and assets, the easier it will be for your family.
A will outlines what to do with your money, your home, and any accounts you have and makes financial and care arrangements for children or pets.
You can also designate a loved one to have power of attorney for financial issues. This could be the same person you chose to make health care choices, but it doesn’t have to be. This person will make choices about your estate after you have passed; although, decisions should be limited if your will outlines your wishes in detail.
Making End-of-Life Decisions Now Keeps the Peace
For many people, this is a tough time to be making such important decisions. To face the end of your life is difficult enough, but to face these practical decisions can present even more of a challenge. However, facing these important and emotional decisions will make your loss a little easier for your family.
When patients have not created legal documents, families must make these choices. Your family will be suffering through your illness too. Knowing exactly what you would want when you are no longer able to communicate can ease their suffering.
These legal documents will also make it easier to take care of your estate after your passing. In some states, intestate cases can go on for months or years, which can be very difficult for grieving family members.
Many families suffer serious, sometimes irreparable, conflicts over medical, legal, and financial decisions for a dying loved one. Rely on those loved ones now and include them in your end-of-life decisions. Then when you are gone, they can grieve and remember you with love.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.