John Stonestreet, Roberto Rivera: The Problems with Advance Directives in Making End-of-Life Decisions

We’re all going to die one day. Are you prepared? Yes, for heaven, but also, have you made decisions about how to handle your medical care?

So what did your family discuss this past Christmas Eve? The beautiful lights? Maybe some childhood holiday memories? Hopefully, the immeasurable gift of the Incarnation and the love of God?

Well, according to the online medical journal STAT, you should have talked about the importance of advance medical directives. As Dave Barry likes to say, I’m not making this up.

In an article published on, of all days, Christmas Eve, STAT told readers that advance directives are a “perfect holiday conversation.” Yep, break out the eggnog…

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, an “advance directive” is “a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.” The most basic example of an advance directive is a “do not resuscitate” order. There are also more complex ones, like “living wills,” that specify what kind of treatment the person will or will not receive.

While I disagree that Christmas is the best moment for this discussion, STAT is absolutely right to say that people should be thinking about their medical care and should be discussing it with their loved ones. As bioethicist Wesley J. Smith notes, preparing an advance directive is “an important task given the evolving economics of medicine.”

But as Smith and others have pointed out, there are far more than merely economic considerations to be discussed. Our plans for the end of our lives ought to carefully reflect our deepest convictions about the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

Done badly, an advance directive can be like a prenuptial agreement. Just as a “prenup” assumes the impermanence of marriage, many advance directives create a presumption in favor of death and efficiency (and an all-out avoidance of suffering) over the sanctity of human life.

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Source: Christian Headlines