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The importance of end-of-life decision making

California music fans were shocked to learn of the sudden-death of rocker Tom Petty. After suffering cardiac arrest, the famous musician was treated but then removed from life support. The decision was made by Petty himself in the form of a do-not-resuscitate order that he had signed as part of his long-term care and estate planning.

Unfortunately, many people do not take the time when they are still alive and healthy to develop plans for end-of-life issues. In fact, many people who understand the importance of having a will may still avoid developing a comprehensive plan that addresses medical and care issues. As a result, their family members may be confused about what their loved one would want to happen after a debilitating or life-changing injury or illness.

This confusion can have a devastating impact on all parties involved. Family members may find themselves in conflict with each other when attempting to make decisions regarding resuscitation orders, life-prolonging treatment or ending life support. Conflict between family members can add to the family's distress while it is already processing shock and grief. It may also lead to unnecessary medical and legal expenses while the family and medical team attempt to come to an agreement. Most importantly, the individual who has sustained the injury or illness may suffer physically, mentally and financially during this time.

Individuals and families who are concerned about end-of-life issues and long-term care planning may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney. The lawyer may be able to review the client's situation and make recommendations regarding the creation of advanced directives, living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders.

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