Rupert Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rupert Howell

Decision Day sparks thoughts on living wills

National Healthcare Decision Day is Thursday. Most haven’t given it much thought.

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The ones promoting it want you to think about making a living (healthcare) will and other decisions before you get to the point you can’t make decisions for yourself.

I’ve thought about it a bit.

The last time I thought about it seriously was when my late father went to the hospital for the last time. The man suffered with dementia for most of a decade before his death, but even while fighting his forgetfulness, he had more sense than his number two son — and he took care of business.

He had previously made financial arrangements and took care of legal documents that would give family members direction concerning life sustaining apparatuses.

That legal document was invaluable to us when the healthcare professionals approached hours before his death and asked our wishes–whether or not to use life support. We didn’t have to make that choice. He already had and we had the document to prove it.

Then there was the time a few years later that my step-dog was ailing. At about 16 years, (that’s 112 dog) my wife and I decided we would have to put the dog “down”.

This dog had chosen me for his person after his master obtained his driver’s license and began spending the majority of his time in the road.

It was while the dog’s former master and owner was in college that we were perplexed with the animal’s health.

We tried to break the news gently.

“Thomas,” we said softly, “We think we’re going to put April to sleep.”

He looked at us matter-of-factly and exclaimed, “I don’t know what y’all are waiting on. You should have done it a long time ago.”

I quitely went into shock. There I was with the closest to offspring I will ever have telling me his thoughts on euthanization. I realized if I left it to him to decide when to “pull the plug” on me, I wouldn’t make it to my first Social Security check.

My wife, on the other hand, is so compassionate she will keep me on life support as long as a big toenail is still alive.

If anyone ever needed to put on paper what his wishes were, it’s me.

And I’m ready to sign on the dotted line.