Being prepared


I have it on good authority that unfortunately, the evidence would appear very strong, that we are all going to die. That’s you, Auntie Annie and even me.

OK, that is something we all consign to sometime in the future, and anyway, I’m not ready to die yet. I jokingly proclaim that if you can’t take it with you, then I’m not going! But that is just a good throw-away joke line.

What prompted this week’s column was the death of an old acquaintance of mine. Lovely bloke who took life seriously and would ask me all sorts of medical questions – but those questions were all related to ‘living’. We never discussed ‘dying’.

He had an accident that resulted in a brain injury that rendered him unconscious – a condition he never recovered from and eventually he died, leaving a grieving wife.

Unfortunately, these scenarios do tend to be commonplace – we are all going to die, and since, in general, we are older than our Thai wives, we can expect to rock up to the pearly gates first to be fitted up with a harp and a comfy cloud.

Unfortunately, whilst it may be ethereal up there, you may have left bedlam down here. As well as grieving wives and family you may have left a financial mess.

Answer this question: when you die, how does your wife get the money necessary for daily living? Was this something you paid her each month, like a salary? But now you’re not there to pay that salary.

Where does your money come from? A pension or superannuation that is paid regularly directly into your account? And does your wife/partner have any access to that account?

Even if your “exit fees” are covered by an insurance policy, does she know where that policy is kept? Or even the name of the company?

And where is your money kept, once you’ve popped your clogs, so to speak? Banks can get very pernickety about people trying to withdraw money from a deceased person’s account, no matter how long they had lived together.

Then there’s wills. If you die without making a will (intestate) then everyone hops in for a slice of the action, right the way through to the gardener and the soi dog. Sorting that lot out takes months (sometimes years), and money is not dispersed until all claims have been verified. (You can relax a bit here – the soi dog won’t get anything.)

But there’s another important will here – your Living Will. You are ensconced in the ICU, unconscious and unable to function on any level. Who has the authority to tell them to pull the plug? If you don’t nominate somebody in your Living Will then nobody has the authority. And while your body is lying there, the taxi meter is ticking away.

However, there is confusion in the minds of many people, as to what a “Living Will” actually is and what it covers. Borrowing from the Mayo Clinic in the US, it states on their website “This written, legal document spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don’t want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube feeding or resuscitation.” The important words to note are “life sustaining” and “resuscitation”. Neither of these concepts imply medically assisted suicide, or euthanasia.

Remember that we are talking about terminal situations here. Not situations from which it would be reasonably expected that you will recover and still have a good quality of life. A fractured hip when you are 90 is a serious situation, but provided you are healthy otherwise, then it would be expected that you would recover. You might need a stick for a while, but you would still be able to have a beer with your mates or play Scrabble or whatever your pursuits were before the incident. In other words, the expectancy of a reasonable quality of life is there.

However, if you are in the terminal phase of metastatic cancer, which has progressed despite treatment, the future quality of life is not there. Artificially prolonging life under that situation is then covered by the Living Will.