As most of you know, our beloved Melinda “The Enforcer” Penner suffered a traumatic brain injury six months ago. Kathryn Butler opens with Melinda’s story in an article for the Gospel Coalition explaining “Why Believers Should Consider Advance Directives.” She describes the need this way:
“Advance care planning” is the process of documenting our wishes for medical care in the event we can no longer communicate. Documents include health-care proxy forms to designate surrogate decision-makers, and physician orders for life sustaining treatment (POLST) or living wills, to outline our treatment preferences. The goal is to ensure care consistent with our values in the event that life-threatening illness incapacitates us, and it equips our loved ones to act on our behalf.
Butler’s arguments are indeed worth considering. Life can change in an instant, and you never know when you might need your own advance directive. Here are the questions she recommends you think through and document before anything happens:
1. What are my goals for the end of life?
This question pertains to how you wish to spend your final days. What matters to you as your life ends? Who matters? What places and people are most precious to you?
2. How can I continue to serve God at the end of life?
Think back to moments in your life when you reveled in the joy of the Lord. Consider the times you have praised him, thanked him, or endeavored to serve him. What did you require in those moments?
3. How much suffering is too much?
As you envision periods of pain and dependence, what would constitute undue suffering? What would so burden you as to strip away your ability to serve God with joy? What would be intolerable?
4. What trials are you willing to endure to achieve your goals at the end of life?
What are you comfortable sacrificing, and what would be unacceptable? As an example, if you aim to spend your final days at home with family, would you be willing to have a ventilator at home to enable this? Would you endure medical treatments that impair consciousness to extend life, or is it important to be in command of your mental faculties, even if declining treatment quickens the end?
In the rest of the article, Butler reminds us of truths about the gospel, about love, and about suffering that ought to guide these decisions, saying, “As Penner beautifully illustrates for us, in end-of-life care the best answers are those that point toward God’s grace manifest in Christ (John 3:16).”
(If you’d like to keep up with future updates about Melinda, see her Caring Bridge page, and if you’re able to help her family pay for much-needed support services and therapies, they’ve set up a GoFundMe for her. Please note that Melinda’s GoFundMe is unaffiliated with Stand to Reason—no money goes through us—and your gifts are not tax deductible.)