“It’s a very vulnerable time,” said Amber Barnato… “A turn of phrase by a doctor can make a lot of difference.”

Words are important. Use them carefully, especially when preparing your estate planning documents. When it comes to your health care directives, the words you choose can be a matter of life and death.

A recent post over at The New Old Age Blog in “DNR by Another Name” illustrates the importance of words and their legal import. It is worth reading the original article (and perhaps even the study it discusses).

Consider this: how a doctor presents a medical choice can lead a caregiver or patient in one direction or the other. For example, as taken from the title of the article, DNR, or “Do Not Resuscitate” is a medical term of art. However, it often means the same as “please allow for a natural death” depending upon the medical situation, the decisions of the patient, and even (or often exclusively) the very word choices and/or mood of the doctor themselves.

As one planning your own late-in-life decisions, language is a topic worthy of your careful consideration. Additionally, if you are caring for an elderly loved one, then be sure both of you understand your loved one’s advance health care wishes and take steps to clearly articulate them in proper medical directives.

Do not assume anything when it comes to the ultimate health care decisions. Make sure the patient, their appointed health care agent and the physician are all speaking the same language.

Communication and documentation are essential.

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Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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