If a freak accident or sudden illness were to leave you medically incapacitated, would your loved ones be prepared to make decisions that line up with your personal wishes? Chances are, if you're over 60, you've made at least preliminary plans should such an incident arise. But what about young people? How many of them are prepared to have someone act on their behalf?

As Dr. Janice B. Schwartz writes in the SF Gate, not enough folks under 40 have seriously considered what would happen if they were involved in a serious medical emergency. She recounts the story of a 22-year-old niece who went from perfectly healthy young athlete one day to laying on a surgeon's table the next. She had suddenly lost her vision amidst a painful headache. Tests found a mass in her brain. Family members were unprepared.

"She had never considered not being healthy, what she would want if she had a condition or illness from which she was unlikely to recover, or if she was unable to speak for herself, or if her body was not able to function without the support of machines."

According to Schwartz, 3 out of 4 people will be unable to make some or all of their own medical decisions near the end of their lives. That's an astounding statistic and all the more reason to plan ahead. Schwartz recommends an online resource called Prepare to get things started. The materials provided will help you determine what your values are regarding end-of-life treatment, choose a designated decision maker with varying levels of responsibility, and learn to talk about this delicate subject with your doctor and loved ones.

The universe is built upon randomness. There's no guarantee that you'll be on your feet tomorrow. A car accident could subdue you. An aneurysm could put you in a coma. A sudden illness could leave you depending on a machine to survive. Of course, these scenarios aren't at all likely and you may very well live to be a healthy and happy 120 years old.

But it never, ever hurts to be prepared.

Read more at SF Gate

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