To Have and to Hold and … Be My Healthcare Proxy?


In our “Money Mic” series, we hand over the podium to someone with a strong opinion on a financial topic. Today, writer Sebastian Stockman chronicles his decision to draft a health care proxy with his spouse.

“Can you make me a promise?” I asked my wife several years ago, well before we were married. “If I ever have a stroke or I’m in a car accident and I’m a vegetable, you’ve got to promise me something.”

“What’s that?” she asked somberly, because I was somber.

“No matter what,” I said. “Never, ever unplug me.”

She thought I was joking, so she laughed. Then she realized that I wasn’t.

“That is not a fair thing to ask,” she said, adding something about the psychic toll it would exact on our then-hypothetical family.

I can listen to reason, so I noted that she’d be free to divorce me and continue with her life. All I wanted was her assurance that she would leave me to my coma.

“You wouldn’t have to do anything,” I said. “You wouldn’t even have to visit. Just leave me plugged in.”

It’s not that I fear death … well, OK, it is that. But, also, who really knows what might await on the other side of the coma? I’m sure this cling-to-life impulse is informed by the ludicrous, miracle awakenings on television dramas. I knew better, of course, but even the grotesquerie of the Terri Schiavo case (which, I believe, prompted my discussion with Katie in the first place) couldn’t dissuade me. I want to LIVE!

Katie, however, was unpersuaded. Apparently, there was some aspect of this issue—the emotional distress of the non-comatose—that I was failing to take into account. So we tabled it.

Signing Over My Life

Over the next few years, we bought a condo, got married and had a baby. In anticipation of the joyous occasion of our daughter’s birth, we found ourselves in the office of a law firm in downtown Boston, where, in addition to our wills, we were each to sign durable powers-of-attorney and health care proxy forms. My signature on the health care proxy would assign to Katie “the authority, without limitation, to make any and all health care decisions on my behalf, including, without limitation, decisions regarding withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures.”

Translation: She’d be free to pull the plug.

  • Bart

    While I think you made the right decision, the biggest issue with the health care system today is the keep me alive at any cost, even if that means hundreds of millions of dollars and my chance at a meaningful life is 0.0000001% Meanwhile, who pays for it?  Both monetarily and emotionally, it’s your family, then everyone else.  We need to come to a realization that life is finite.  We would be so much better off.

  • Yikes!

    The timing of this article is ironic. Thank you so much for your view, which keeps mine in perspective.  It was a great help. I agree with your decision too. I am glad that I am not the only one who isn’t afraid to say and feel it. What it all comes down to in a nut shell, letting go. Ugh.

  • KD

    My sisters, mother and I just had to make the decision to take my father off life support after he fell into a coma brought on by hypoglycemia and leukemia. He made it very clear over the years that he didn’t want to live on machines. Though he didn’t have a will, we knew what he wanted, but it didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. When you’re in that situation, however, you realize it’s not about you — it’s about the person lying in the hospital bed and what he or she wants. I wish I still had my dad, but I know he’s much happier where he is now.