Five Myths About End of Life Preparations

There are five common myths about end of life preparations. These misconceptions should never get in the way of creating a health care proxy or living will, according to Harvard Medical School.

Myth: More care is always better.

Truth: Not necessarily. Sometimes more care prolongs the dying process without respect for quality of life or comfort. It is important to know what interventions are truly important in advance. That is where the advice of a healthcare team is invaluable.

Myth: Refusing life support invalidates your life insurance because you are committing suicide.

Truth: Refusing life support does not mean that you are committing suicide. Instead, the underlying medical problem is considered to be the cause of death.

Myth: If medical treatment is started, it cannot be stopped.

Truth: Not starting a medical treatment and stopping a treatment are the same in the eyes of the law. So you or your health care agent can approve a treatment for a trial period that you think may be helpful without fear that you cannot change your mind later. However, be aware that stopping treatment can be more emotionally difficult than not starting it in the first place.

Myth: If you refuse life-extending treatments, you are refusing all treatments.

Truth: No matter what treatments you refuse, you should still expect to receive any other care you need or want — especially the pain and symptom management sometimes called intensive comfort care.

Myth: Stopping or refusing artificial nutrition and hydration causes pain for someone who is dying.

Truth: Unlike keeping food or water from a healthy person, for someone who is dying, declining artificial nutrition or intravenous hydration does not cause pain.

For more on setting goals for end-of-life care and avoiding common pitfalls, buy Living Wills: A guide to advance directives, health care power of attorney, and other key documents, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

Want to learn more about life insurance? Read our article The Most Frequently Asked Life Insurance Questions.

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