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Colorectal Cancer: Nearing End Of LIfe

How To Keep Control When You Cannot Speak

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In order to maintain control if you become unable to speak for yourself:

  • Execute a Health Care Power Of Attorney and/or other Advance Healthcare Directives so your wishes can be known and carried out. 
    • Include authority to make decisions in case you lose your mental capacity. (To learn more, see the Survivorship A to Z document about Advance Directives for Mental Health.)
    • If you already have these documents, revisit them to be sure they express how you currently feel about these subjects. Feelings can change over time.
  • Get your doctor on board. You will need his or her cooperation.
    • If you have more than one doctor treating you, pick one to be in charge of following through on your wishes if you become unable to communicate for yourself.  
    • Discuss your wishes with the lead doctor if you haven't already. If you already had the discussion, remind the doctor of your wishes. For example, let the doctor know whether you want pain to be controlled to the maximum extent, even if that control could hasten your death.  
    • If your doctor does not agree with your choices, and does not convince you to change your point of view, will he or she nonetheless carry out your wishes? If not, consider changing doctors.
  • Talk with your family about your desires. If you become unable to communicate, they will likely be consulted no matter what you say in the documents and discussed with your doctor. Even though doctors and hospitals are protected by the documents you sign, they do not want to be sued.

For additional information, see the documents in "To Learn More."

NOTE: If you do not want heroic treatment, let family members and friends who are around you often know not to call 911 if your heart stops beating or your lungs stop working or another event happens that could lead to death. It is difficult to stop treatment once it starts.

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