So my house has been struck with the plague which has put me out of commission on all fronts for the last week, but amid my coughing and sneezing I was happy to see that a piece I wrote for Offbeat Home was published called, 5 things you can do to join the Death Positivity movement and value life more. Part of the post that was edited for space addressed why Advance Health Directives are so critical. Seeing as this is my blog and, I can do what I want, I thought I would add it here as an addendum to the Offbeat piece.
If you don’t think you are ready for full estate and end of life planning at the very least get an Advance Health Directive. This will give the person that you choose power of attorney to execute your wishes should you not be able to and it trumps next of kin laws. That means you decided what level of intervention you want if you are incapacitated and there is no possibility of recovery. You choose who will take possession of your body (a dead body becomes semi-property in most legal systems based on English Law) and any directives you have for how your body will be interred. It is not as detailed as having a funeral plan in your will, but it ensures the basics.
When Jennifer Gable, a trans woman, unexpectedly died she had been living as a female legally for several years. However, she didn’t have a will, which led to her parents dressing her as a man for her funeral and referred to her as a male in her obituary. I think it is fair to say that Jennifer’s wishes were not honoured.
Being from the Tampa Bay area, I saw whole families irrupt into fights over the Terri Schiavo case. These most often were couples and adult children that never spoke about end of life issues and just assumed what they wanted would be what everyone else in the family wanted.
It is especially important if you know your family won’t follow your wishes or your relationships don’t fit cleanly into legal definitions. For instance, if you are in a polyamorous relationship. If you are married to one partner legally and you want your other partner to have a legal right to make decisions too, the only way that can happen is if you specify it in a legal document like an Advance Health Directive.
So check what the rules are in your area. In many places pdfs of Advance Health Directives or Living Wills can be found online through your Department of Health.