I was just reminded of something while watching “In My Own Country,” a made-for-TV movie about the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the eyes of a small-town physician. In one scene, a patient of Dr. Verghese is brought to the hospital with acute respiratory distress resulting from a pneumonia. The pneumonia itself was caused by an opportunistic infection from having AIDS. The patient is a farmer, and he has a male partner, the one who brought him in. The physician goes out to talk to the family, and the partner begs for no extraordinary measures to keep the patient alive. The family disagrees, and, being the legal next-of-kin of the patient, the physician obeys their wishes to save the patient’s life.
Besides the obvious implications of not allowing the partner to be the one to make the decision, I was reminded that all of us should have an advance directive or living will. At the very least, we should inform our loved ones of our wishes in case the worst happens. Hopefully, they’ll respect those wishes. You do not want to leave them in the dark when it comes time to make a very tough decision at a very tough time. So go now. Go have that chat.