Let people know how far to go with life saving measures

Many of us will eventually end up in critical condition in a hospital, and when one is incapacitated and in critical condition the decision of the amount and level of life saving measures is often left to distraught family and loved ones. In order to prevent causing that amount of anguish on the people we care about in their often worst time of their life it is vital to discuss and make clear to everyone your wishes about medical care in the event of your incapacitation.

Medical code status is often broken down into three categories:

Code One.  Every life saving measure at the doctor's disposal will be used and will continue to be used until either the family decides to stop or the doctors feel the further continuation is futile.

Code Two.  The doctors will continue the life saving measures already being performed but will not introduce further measures.  Also, in the event of a cardiac arrest the doctors will administer I.V. medications but will not do CPR.

Code Three.  The doctors will remove all life saving measures which will in most times result in the patient passing away.  Almost all ICUs allow the family at the bedside continuously regardless of visiting hours in the event of Code three status.

These can be modified to family wishes such as introducing another life saving measure, like dialysis, to the patient who is in the Code two status if the doctor thinks it might significantly improve the patient's outcome.  These can also be changed during treatment depending on the family wishes.

A Medical Power of Attorney puts the decisions of your care at the hands of one particular person, such as a certain family member or loved one.  The person you pick will be your representative and will be your voice in determining how far the doctors will go in saving your life.  This also takes the pressure of making such decisions away from people who might have problems coping with such a task.

A way to express your explicit wishes is by a Medical Power of Attorney.  Your local hospital or clinic should have these papers available.  This document will instruct the doctors what your wishes are and can be as detailed as how long to do care, what kind of treatments you wish to include in your care, and which ones you don't or as simple as "perform live saving measures for 10 days only".  Please consult your doctor so you can make an informed decision about your care. 

Once you have made decisions on your care, share it with people.  The more people who know the more likely they will be carried out according to your wishes.  For example your general practitioner might be able to express your wishes to your critical care doctors than your distraught wife or relatives that live hundreds of miles away.

   Make sure your decisions in your care during a critical time of your life are carried properly and with as little stress as possible on the people you love by discussing and making life saving decisions today.