Life is not separate from death. It only looks that way.
-Blackfoot Indian proverb

From "What Friends Are For: Climbing the 'Hidden Staircase' of Health-Care Proxies," by Rev. Patricia C. Cashman. Published by Spirituality & Health Magazine:

Because of what happened to Terry Schiavo, many people are filling out living wills and durable powers of attorney. In my experience as a nurse and a pastor, I know that this can mark the beginning of a long staircase to climb with another person-a staircase hidden by a curtain of silence because most of us are reluctant to speak about death. So what should you do if a family member or friend asks you to be their health-care proxy?

1. Acknowledge the honor. Signing a power of attorney creates a sacred bond between persons, giving you unprecedented authority to direct another's medical care. You are a protector entrusted to ensure that the medical-care choices listed on a directive will be carried out-from the moment your friend becomes too weak to speak to the day he either recovers or dies.

BR> 2. Have a thorough conversation. Find out all you can about your friend's personal experience of illness and death. Find out if he has a religious affiliation and how that fits in with his approach to medical care and end-of-life decisions. Make sure the two of you have a shared and correct understanding of the medical procedures listed on the directive. 3. Convey to family members that decisions have been made and give them copies of the documents. Ask for their support, encourage them to air their concerns, and stress the authority of the proxy.

4. Convince persons who are hospitalized to have copies of the appropriate documents on their medical chart. When it's time to implement the living-will directive, make certain the patient's medical choices match the orders written by the doctor; only directives specifically written on the physician's order sheet will be carried out.

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