Humanist end of life decision can be some of the hardest and most confusing, not only for you, but for your family. It is also unfair to put this sort of pressure on your loved ones if a tragedy strikes and you lose your life.
“When it comes to end of life decisions, only you know your true wishes. It is your responsibility to yourself and to your family and loved ones to spell out these wishes.” Says Robert Copley, who recently wrote a piece on end of life decisions on his blog unBelief.
Copley lays out a few crucial steps for anyone to take now, to save their families the nightmare of figuring out your end of life choices.
Issues to consider:
- Life Insurance: will your family be financially sound if you are killed tomorrow?
- Organ Donation. If NO, make those wishes known. If YES, clarify which organs if you have specific restrictions.
- Define quality of life for yourself.
- Clarify instructions regarding what should be done if you no are longer able to meet the quality of life definition that you have previously defined.
- Clarify instructions regarding Life Support measures. Feeding tube? Ventilator?
- Clarify instructions regarding Resuscitation Measures if necessary. DNR?
- Clarify your wishes regarding physician-assisted suicide if you are no longer able to meet the quality of life definition that you have previously defined. Do this regardless of current laws in your state. Laws change and people travel.
- State a desire for hospital transfer if the hospital where you are being cared for has policies in place that contradict your wishes. Ie. Catholic Hospital
In the horrible case that you lose your life, putting these burdens on your family is unnecessary. Humanists and atheists often tend to have specific do’s and don’ts for their end of life wishes, and if you do not document them properly, these decisions will be left up to grieving family members left behind and in a time of mourning, these decisions can often be made in error.
Also, be sure to keep a humanist celebrant in mind for your memorial services. If you do not have a specific one, at the very least make sure you document how to access one in your area. A great place to start is the American Humanist Association. You can find a local humanist organization in your area here and they can guide you to finding a local humanist chaplain for such events.