Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Advance Directives And End Of Life Expenses

Few if anyone would disagree with the ethical premise that a society should do everything possible to make sick people well. But this ethos seems to have gotten confused with something entirely different: the practice of keeping dying people alive as long as possible without concern for their discomfort, loss of dignity, and financial ruin. When you look at the statistics surrounding the issue of end-of-life expenditures they are truly incredible. In 2008 Medicare alone paid out $50 billion to physicians and medical centers to cover costs associated with the last two months of the lives of dying individuals. To put this into perspective, this was more than the annual budget that was allotted to the Department of Education at that time.

It is estimated that between 18-20% of people who pass away each year do so in the intensive care units of hospitals, and the cost for each day in ICU can reach as much as $10,000. This is in spite of the fact that most people polled do not want to be kept alive through aggressive and intrusive medical procedures when there is no hope for recovery. 75% of American die in hospitals or nursing homes, and in 2010 the average cost for a year in a private room in a nursing home was around $83,000. More people are living longer these days as we all know, these costs are rising all the time, and we are already faced with a federal budget deficit that exceeds $1 trillion.

How you feel about being kept alive through feeding tubes and life support systems at the end of your life is a personal decision. You can state your wishes concerning the types of medical procedures you approve and disapprove of through the execution of a living will, and you can add a health care proxy to name someone to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation. It may be a good idea to come to terms with the line that exists between medical issues and end-of-life issues and decide how you would like to proceed from a fully informed and personally empowered perspective.

Alan L. Augulis is a leading provider of expert estate planning guidance in Warren, NJ. For more information on advance directives and other estate planning services, visit our website.
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