What follows is an email which I received from an attorney friend who knew that I practiced elder law and thought that my clients would appreciate this warning. (The names have been changed.)
“On Thursday morning Aunt Betsy died in Cleveland. I went over to help my Mom with funeral arrangements and will be there on Monday for the memorial service.
A CAUTIONARY TALE: You may recall that 3 weeks ago I went to Cleveland to help Mom get Betsy’s papers in order. Included among them were her healthcare power of attorney and her Living Will. When everything was in order I came home. A few days later Betsy was moved to another facility. They had her sign a new packet of admission papers, which included new directives calling for what is known as “Full Code“, not “Do Not Resuscitate” as she had previously directed. How mentally competent Betsy was at that point is a good question, but what she signed authorized the new hospital to do whatever they deemed necessary to keep the body alive. This usually entails breaking ribs to get at the heart, inserting tubes where ever, and, as far as I am concerned, massive abuse. This is one of the prices we pay for living in such a litigious society. Fortunately one of Betsy’s friends noticed the directive change and demanded that the doctor in charge come to Betsy’s room and explain the procedures. Betsy could only nod ‘No’ to each and was only capable of making an ‘x’, but she was allowed to execute a new Living Will and thus to die in relative peace.
The lesson is, make sure that your medical directives reflect your wishes and are constantly monitored at each medical facility. The default procedure is “Full Code”.