People differ, strongly, on whether and when doctors should forgo additional treatment and allow a patient to die. Unfortunately, the person whose opinion matters most – the patient – is often unconscious, or otherwise unable to express themselves in such situations. This places a heavy burden on family members to make a decision when they may be unsure what the patient’s desires would be, may be unsure who should make the decision in the patient’s place, may be tempted to substitute their own desires for the patient’s, or may fiercely disagree with each other. This can result in the patient’s desires not being honored, as well as hurtful, and sometimes even public, intra-family fighting at what is already a time of considerable pain.
Medical planning is about making these decisions for yourself in advance and writing down your wishes in a clear and thorough manner so that your family will not have to wrestle with doubts or disputes about what you would have chosen.