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Last Modified March 28, 2022
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End-of-life Decisions about Medical Care

At the end of mesothelioma’s progression, some patients choose symptom management instead of curative ones. That tells a medical team to focus on discomfort and not on trying to kill tumors. Doctors may present you with this option or they may not. But it is an option you always have. Ask your doctor if palliative care would effectively improve your quality of life.

A 2021 research study investigated the main themes that informed patients’ decisions about mesothelioma treatment and clinical trial participation. When considering whether to pursue medical care, patients cared most about the physical implications, the impact on quality of life, the potential risks of medical treatment and how concerned they were about the future.

Patients should tell their doctors and nurses where they want to receive care. Some prefer to remain in a hospital or inpatient hospice program with 24-hour professional attention. Others are more comfortable at home, surrounded by family, friends and pets. If you choose home care, you will need to designate a caregiver, someone who can ensure your home can accommodate your medical needs and any particular new medical supplies (oxygen tanks, a hospital bed, etc.).

Other End-of-Life Decisions

A terminal prognosis often makes patients worry how their dependents will be cared for, how funeral and burial services will be arranged and how possessions will be distributed. Although this is an emotional time for patients and family members, planning ahead for these practical matters and reaching out to a mesothelioma support group helps make the end-of-life process much easier for survivors.

Patients should name beneficiaries for any insurance policies they hold; designate survivor’s benefits recipients from unions, employers or lawsuits; decide who will receive their final tax return; and decide what should happen to any investments such as an IRA or 401k. All of these financial decisions should be written into a will, which should be signed and placed in an easy-to-find location. Personal information – a patient’s social security number, vital records, account passwords and important contacts – should be stored in the same place. A trusted family member should be told where these documents are kept.

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Creating a will is the easiest way to ensure that your finances will be handled the way you prefer.

Some of the things typically written into a will include:

  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Real estate
  • Safe deposit boxes and valuables
  • Personal possessions
  • Business Assets

End-of-life decisions can also dictate what a patient would like to happen after they pass away.

Patients can consider the following questions:

  • Who will care for my minor children and/or pets?
  • Do I want to donate any healthy organs to an organ bank?
  • Where do I want to be buried or cremated?
  • What sort of funeral do I want, and how will it be paid for?

Mesothelioma patients often have the option of filing an asbestos lawsuit to help cover their medical bills and provide for their families after they have passed. These lawsuits are handled almost entirely by lawyers, allowing you to spend your time interacting with your family instead of worrying about a court case.

Quick Fact:
In some late-stage cases, life-sustaining equipment such as a ventilator, respirator and feeding or hydration tube may be needed to keep a mesothelioma patient alive. Determine in advance which forms of life support you are comfortable receiving and how long those can be used. These choices should be clearly explained to your medical team and included among any advance directives in your medical file.

Preparing for the Unexpected

While planning is recommended to make any future decisions easier, late-stage mesothelioma can interfere with a patient’s ability to make those choices. To plan for this, a patient can give someone power of attorney – usually a trusted family member or friend – to make decisions for them.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

A “durable power of attorney for health care” is designated to make treatment decisions on a patient’s behalf. Patients should choose someone that they trust to make medical decisions in accordance with their own values and ethics.

A durable power of attorney for health care may decide:

  • What types of medications should be given
  • Whether or not life support should be used
  • Where the patient should be treated
Quick Fact:
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions in end-of-life planning and funeral services for thousands of families. More than half of the patients surveyed by The Mesothelioma Center reported that COVID-19 worries them and their families during this time.
Learn how mesothelioma patients can manage covid-19 anxiety

Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs

In addition to designating someone to make choices concerning your healthcare, you will want to specify who can make decisions about your estate. This person, a “durable power of attorney for financial affairs,” will not need to handle many – if any – decisions if you have a valid and signed will in place. However, in the event that your will is incomplete, challenged or invalid, this individual will be responsible for making financial decisions on your behalf.

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