Life lessons include choose your own battles, fight the good fight and never allow others to fight your own battles. As an emergency physician, I often care for patients who are beside themselves rather than on top of their medical conditions. Patients’ capacity to make wise decisions is generally dependent on how well they understand the disease process in addition to potential risk factors, informed consent, family expectations and their ability to handle stress. Attempting to combat these divergent forces reasonably and wisely requires preparation and the experience gained from a few hard knocks. Oftentimes, making wise healthcare decisions is delegated to the person with the medical degree.
While National Healthcare Decisions Day prompts people to combat healthcare battles by declaring personal wishes, surprisingly few people realize what wishes are most important to them. In most battles few people will surrender when their lives are at stake. This quandary allows patients to become gullible to false hope, high expectations and wishful thinking rather than making wise healthcare decisions. When patients allow others to fight their battles, I often hear family members assert, “He wants everything done.” Cognizant of Christ’s words of compassion, I am reminded to forgive them; for they know not what they do. Oddly, compassion tends to be geared towards perpetrators of undying intervention rather than those dying.
Most combat fear with passion, enlisting a type of competitive edge through attaining grace under fire. Passion and grace are central elements inherent to both living well and making wise healthcare decisions. These armaments are necessary to engage battles and determine exit strategies. Passion and grace exemplify personal empowerment and contribute to patient empowerment. This enterprise emboldens patients to make reasonable wishes, allowing them to maintain control over their life and death, dignity and destiny. Reasonable wishes are both heartfelt and wise. To adjudicate and guide the process of making wise healthcare decisions, I wrote a book of heart-centric wishes titled WISHES TO DIE FOR.
As wisdom and grace often come with age, many people tend to wait until later in life to make very tough decisions regarding their end-of- life care. I mostly witness elderly people become set in their ways and fearful of death. By having their wishes ingrained as convictions in the prime of life, people are more empowered to make meaningful healthcare decisions at the end of life. WISHES TO DIE FOR expands upon doing less in Advance Care Directives, but more importantly it encourages people to lead purposeful lives, reflected in their making wise healthcare decisions.