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Advance Directives for Mesothelioma Patients

Facts About Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a rare yet aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Usually diagnosed in advanced stages, life time expectancy from time of diagnosis is often quite short, less than two years. When mesothelioma is discovered in earlier stages and treated, survival times can be as long as five years or more. If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, an important immediate consideration would be completing an advance directive.

Advance Directives

Advance directives act as legally binding documents in the form of written instructions that allow you to communicate what kind of care and treatment you want when facing end of life. This document serves if and when you become too sick or hurt to be able to directly convey what your wishes are.

Advance directives cover treatments and procedures that could lead to sustaining your life, such as:

  • Use of dialysis and breathing machines
  • Artificial nutrition and hydration
  • Resuscitation if breathing or heart beat stops
  • Organ or tissue donation

Living Wills, Durable Power of Attorney, Do Not Resuscitate

Living Wills are one type of Advance Directive, however only Advance Directives let you select someone to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them on your own behalf. The document that states who you would appoint, such as a spouse or close family member, to make such decisions if you were unconscious or unable to do so is called a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) for Health Care.

An advance directive may include a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order, instructing the treating doctor to not take any cardiopulmonary resuscitation measures if your heart or breathing stops. If you do not have this, hospital staffs are legally required to take such actions. Although laws regarding living wills, advance directives, and durable power of attorneys vary depending on what state you live, DNR’s are accepted and followed throughout the United States.

California Laws for Do Not Resuscitate Orders

In California, the law allows any adult with decision making capabilities to decide whether they would accept or refuse medical treatment or life sustaining procedures, such as artificial nutrition and hydration. Whoever is appointed as Durable Power of Attorney can also make this known if you are unable to.

We strongly recommend any client who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma to create an advance directive if they would like their preferences to be followed versus the hospital or care facility making those decisions for them. Many times, efforts to keep a patient alive are invasive and can lead to greater suffering. Having an advance directive also lets patients and family members feel that they have some control over their treatment and eventual death.

We actually recommend that everyone in the family create advance directives in the unfortunate event of a sudden serious accident or illness. Advance directives can be changed and updated at any time, as long as you are considered to be able to think rationally and communicate decisions with a sound mind. Note, all changes must be signed and in some states notarized.

Hospice and Five Wishes

Hospice often uses a form called Five Wishes that acts as an Advance Directive and is accepted in almost all states. Besides using Five Wishes, there are several other ways of creating an advance directive. The simplest is writing your wishes down yourself or having a loved one write them and then signing it. You can also use a form which can be provided by the hospital, health department or your physician. If you have mesothelioma attorneys representing you, they can also help. You can also try downloading the forms for your particular state at Caring Connections. This site has more detailed information about advanced care planning as well.

If you are already our client and would like someone from Clapper, Patti, Schweizer & Mason to help you in completing an advance directive, please call: 415-332-4262.