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Elder care, medical choices and the freedom to truly decide

The rather innocuous sounding term "medical maximalism" is at the heart of what drives a Harvard doctor, who is also a filmmaker and obsessive entrepreneur, to push the medical industry toward fundamental changes in the way it perceives patients' medical conditions in the latter stages of their lives.

The work being done by Dr. Angelo Volandes and his wife, Dr. Aretha Delight Davis, also has implications for elder law and long-term planning for loves ones in a family who have advanced illnesses or diseases. Most fundamentally, it underscores the need for family members to candidly discuss serious medical conditions, discover what their loved ones truly want and need, and use the requisite legal tools and assistance from an experienced elder law attorney to accomplish what best promotes those interests.

What deeply motivates the work of Volandes and his wife, which is centered on medical-related videos that are meant to objectively present the realities and treatment options of latter-stage illnesses, is that most people are simply ignorant of medical go-to treatments and the choices that they can make to ensure their best options.

The default option in many cases is medical maximalism, which stresses a strong emphasis on simply keeping a person alive as long as possible, without an equal focus on abiding by what that person truly wants.

Volandes' work is well chronicled in a recent article appearing in the Atlantic Magazine.

One aspect of that piece that emerges loud and clear is this: Persons with latter-stage and end-of-life illnesses have legal rights and options regarding the type and scope of medical treatment they wish to receive. Through candid discussions with family members and professional assistance from a proven elder law attorney, they can ensure that they are treated with the dignity and respect they merit.

Source: The Atlantic, "How Not to Die," Jonathan Rauch, April 24, 2013

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