Who Decides If You Go On A Ventilator?


With Fall of 2020 upon us, many areas of the country are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases again, with several states and areas reverting back to more stringent distancing requirements and closing businesses that were previously allowed to open.  This is putting this disease back to the forefront for many individuals.  One thing that many have not thought about or prepared for is the possibility of needing to be put on a ventilator while they are fighting COVID-19 if they were to unfortunately catch it.

Being concerned about one’s own health or the health of their spouse are always among the top personal concerns for all wealthy investors, according to recent Spectrem Group research.  The concern regarding a potential health catastrophe is also of great concern to many investors.  This high level of concern hasn’t always translated into taking all actions to manage those risks and address any and all financial concerns regarding health issues.

COVID-19 has been a great leveler regarding the feelings of mortality.  Although the majority of individuals who have passed away have been older, there have been many middle-aged individuals and younger who have unfortunately passed away.  It is among those individuals who perhaps have not had in depth discussions regarding what type of heroic measures they would or would not want taken in the unfortunate event of needing life support.  Spectrem research shows that just under half (48 percent) of investors have created a living will.  This number drops to 18 percent for Millennials and only 28 percent for Gen X investors.


A living will is a document that allows the care wishes of the individual to be known.  This document would specify what types of actions the individual would like to have taken if they are no longer able to make those decisions for themselves.  This could include determining if they would like life-sustaining treatment to be used in their care.  The living will could specify what types of measures would be used and to what degree.  Without this legal document, families are often left to decide what they think their loved one would like to do.

For many, discussions around just what types of actions they would like to have taken in the event of a life-threatening illness or injury that they are not able to participate in themselves is something they do not want to consider.  This is where it is critical to at least have a healthcare power of attorney.  A healthcare power of attorney is also a legal document but it appoints a specific individual that will make medical decisions for that person if they are unable to make those decisions for themselves.  For those individuals who are married, hospitals would look to the spouse to make those decisions unless there was another document in place identifying someone else.  For children those decisions are usually made by the parents.  What about those individuals who are widows or widowers, or single or divorced?  That is when it is even more important to have someone identified who has the full trust of the individual to follow their wishes.

COVID-19 is something that people can recover from, so the conversation about what measures to take or not to take may not happen initially.  However, this is a topic that is necessary to discuss because there are many investors who feel very strongly about not ever wanting to be "hooked up to machines".  Without some sort of document in place, a living will or a healthcare power of attorney, those choices may not be their own.