Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog


How Would You Feel About Being Put On A Ventilator?

May 20, 2020

If you contract COVID 19 and are hospitalized, what kinds of interventions do you want? According to a May 12, 2020 report from Kaiser Health News, one thing many older people definitely DON’T want is to be placed on a ventilator. To make sure their wishes are honored, they are revising their health care advance directives to reflect that preference, and making sure their designated health care surrogates are aware of it. While the pandemic has made people of all ages keenly aware of the need for health care documents, older people tend to feel a greater sense of urgency. They are more susceptible to infection, and more likely to experience severe symptoms and succumb.

When placed on mechanical ventilation, a tube is placed down the patient’s throat (intubation). The patient is kept sedated and isolated in the ICU. No visitors are permitted. By now we’ve all heard first-hand accounts of patients who had this experience. They are thankful to be alive, but  traumatized by the days or weeks they spent intubated. Moreover, for an older person, intubation is less likely to save life. “Their prognosis is not great,” says Dr. Douglas White, a professor of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, older people generally spend more time on ventilators than younger ones, and if they survive, face a more grueling battle back to functionality. Obviously, none of that precludes you from desiring and receiving mechanical ventilation. Each of us must assess what procedures are worth enduring for the chance to survive.

If you want to address your desires for intubation in your health care advance directives – because you wish to rule it out, or rule it in – contact us and we can assist you. Reach us at (561) 625-1100 or email KLF@karplaw.com.