The end of life has many similarities with the beginning. You may need help to eat or bathe, and you may need someone else to make decisions on your behalf.

As a child, your parents do this for you. As an adult, you can use an advanced health care directive to have some say in the matter. It allows you to set out how you are looked after if you have a life-threatening injury or a mental illness that leaves you unable to make decisions yourself. Here are some of the choices you can make in advance:

  • What will happen to your organs? You can stipulate if you want to donate them to a person in need or give them to medical research. You can also refuse both if you prefer your organs stay in your body after death.
  • Do you wish to be given life-sustaining treatment? Science can keep people alive after their body is incapable of doing it alone. Or you may prefer to go when it is your time without being resuscitated or kept on life support.
  • Who will treat you, and where? Perhaps you have a preferred physician or a nursing home.
  • How do you want your body to be disposed of? Maybe you prefer cremation to burial in the family graveyard.

Making decisions in advance and putting these in a legal document can relieve your family of the responsibility for these difficult choices. You could also give one person a health care power of attorney to make decisions on your behalf. Family members may have different opinions about what is best for you or what you would want. Setting it out in advance makes everyone’s life simpler and is an essential part of your estate planning.