Lessons Learned From “The Descendants”

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 02-28-2012

A Living Will, Advance Directive Form, Advance Health Directive Why Living Wills and Advanced Directives Should Star in Your Life


Among the many heart-wrenching topics explored in The Descendants is the role of advanced directives in enforcing patients’ wishes and forcing family members to come to terms with death.  Advanced directives or living wills are documents that allow patients to direct aspects of their health care before they become incapacitated.

In the movie, wife Elizabeth enters a coma after a boating accident. She will never awaken, and under the terms of her living will, she must be disconnected shortly from life support.
Aside from relieving her family of the burden of caring for her (and paying for her care) indefinitely, the advance directive allows her husband Matt to focus immediately on his children and coming to terms with what has happened.

What if Elizabeth hadn’t any advanced directives? Part of the movie would have been about Matt’s struggle over whether to pull the plug and when. Instead, Elizabeth made the decision herself, therefore, relieving her family of that difficult decision.

How can I get an advanced directive form?

Bradford Publishing carries the Medical Power of Attorney form, also known as a health care power of attorney form and the Colorado Living Will. The medical power of attorney is a document that allows a person to make medical decisions for someone else and the Colorado Living Will is a document that allows someone to state in advance which types of medical treatment should be administered or withheld if he or she becomes terminally ill.

Keep control and plan ahead

Although in The Descendants we never learn why Elizabeth wrote her advance directive, it’s likely she wanted have a voice in what happened to her.

Likewise, at some time in your life you may not be able to make your own decisions regarding your medical care. Planning ahead for a disability includes planning for the possibility that someone else will have to decide what kind of medical care we should or should not receive.  You can relieve that person of the burden of making difficult decisions by writing an advance directive.

For more information about this topic, see “Planning Ahead: Living Wills and Other Advance Directives.”