... an online journal about all things death oriented (no, it's not at all morbid, in our casual understanding of the term) and its author, Jessica Knapp, I ran across an interesting document mentioned in one of her posts. It's a type of Living Will that goes beyond the typical in a variety of important ways. To quote the website Aging With Dignity, on which the Five Wishes Advance Directive is featured (along with a variety of other "aging with dignity" issues), it allows the signer to "use your words to express your wishes, communicating in a language that you understand". Aside from the usual Living Will concerns, which it allows the signer to address much more specifically than the typical Living Will, it also deals with "how you want people to treat you" and "what you want loved ones to know". My curiosity was piqued, so I clicked into the Five Wishes Preview featured on the site and discovered more than a preview. It appears that the entire structure and wording of the Five Wishes document is included in the pdf file (which can be downloaded to your hard drive by simply saving it). There is also a link on this site which states that they have reprinted the entire Five Wishes document "with permission". The reprinting matches the "Preview" in every respect. This site also cautions: "To use this as a legal document in those states that accept it, ...you MUST send for the paper version (only $5)." I doubt this. I rather suspect that this is a tip of the hat to the profit motive.
Both files include instructions on how to legalize the document, a thumbnail history of the document's origin and specific state instructions, where applicable, regarding additional legal requirements. It also advises how to, for instance, pick someone as your "health care agent". The latter contains some surprising but, in retrospect, wise suggestions regarding who you should not appoint to this position.
I especially like the headings in some of the wishes. Wish 2, for instance, includes the headings: "What You Should Keep In Mind As My Caregiver" and "What Life Support Means To Me". The section on what specific types of treatment the signer wishes as death approaches is divided into four parts including one entitled "In Another Condition In Which I Do Not Want To Be Kept Alive". Most provocative, though, are some of the requests under the last three wishes, all of which describe in brief yet startling detail the type of treatment one would like as one approaches death (i.e., "I wish to be massaged with warm oils..." and "I wish to have my favorite music played..." in Wish 3). "My Wish For What I Want My Loved Ones to Know", #5, includes general requests for and thoughts of forgiveness in addition to the general attitudes and demeanor the dying one wishes their friends and relatives to assume as they approach and, afterwards, come to grips with the loss of the dying one.
If you're a regular reader, it shouldn't surprise you that I am brimming with musings about some of the aspects of the Five Wishes document.
As for myself? Well, at the moment I've got a peculiar view of such documents. I'm in a period where I still don't consider myself out of the woods as far as " excess mortality" is concerned. I still have days, though much less frequent than previously, during which I hope I am no longer alive by the end of the day or, upon retiring, I hope I "wake up dead". I also consider scenarios in which I, for instance, fall at home while doing some chore and am left in an irreversible coma on life support. When I envision these possibilities I derive a perverse delight from imagining the mess either scenario would leave in my dead or almost-dead wake. In addition, I rather like the idea that anyone who becomes aware of either circumstance will be required, by my lack of documented wishes, to react from their own resources without dictation from me.
In my usual manner of doing things with my ass turned askew, after I wrote the above I decided to research commentary on the Five Wishes document. Wow! It seems that there is significant concern about the oblique intentions of this document and the legality of Wishes 1 & 2. Here's a list of the links I discovered, in the order I discovered them, with a short summary of the information each contains:
Despite the concerns listed above, which require serious deliberation, I still think The Five Wishes Document is a serviceable overture. If nothing else, it introduces the possibility of, say, writing a cannon into the composition of your death experience.