The Physical Shin

Last update: October 6, 2021

The John Shinnick Website

It must be over five years now that my almost-a-doctor Rebecca Riseman (nurse practitioner is her title) told me that I should have an "advanced health care directive" or AHCD. This document allows a person to state what is desired in terms of health care if the person becomes unable to speak for themself. It also requires that the person appoint an "agent" to make these decisions based on the document, and optionally to appoint backup agents in case the primary agent is unavailable. The AHCD is to take precedence over the wishes and desires of others who may have their own agendas or beliefs.

In addition, two people have to sign the document testifying that the individual who wrote it indeed wrote it (or at least specified the which options were to be selected).

At the heart of it, is that the traditional medical establishment focuses on keeping people alive. Period. Sadly, this can be done as the patient experiences suffering which cannot be alleviated, or lives in a vegetative state as family or community resources dwindle. That would not be my choice, but given the circumstances, I would likely be in no condition to object.


It's not a complicated form as forms go, but I procrastinated for years. I think I was simply at an age at which I simply didn't want to work on anything that made me face my own mortality. I've had the same issue making out a simple will. I finally got past this a few months ago. Indeed, filling out the form proved easy.


As stated above, I'm basically a "do not prolong my life" find of guy. If I'm in pain or have no conscious thought and this is how it will be for the rest of my life, don't prolong it. Seems straightforward. I added "use me for research if you can, and when I'm gone, harvest my organs for others, cremate me and scatter the ashes (the thought of eternity in either a coffin or an urn gives me the creeps!)

So who to have as my agent? It appears that most people choose their spouse. They have numerous advantages. They're obviously local, they have great knowledge of the individual's wishes, and the individual knows the spouse's ability to follow the directives.

But as a bachelor, what do I do? My nearest family is several hours away and for various reasons I don't want to burden them with executing such a responsibility. My best friend since junior high school was living two hours away, and has since moved out of state. Though I know many of my neighbors reasonably well, I'm not really close to any of them, at least enough to trust them with this kind of decision.


Oddly enough, I am the agent for one such person, a bachelor himself. I trust myself to make the decision he specified and have no personal stake in his decisions. But I don't know him well 

Advanced Health Care Directive

This is my frustration picture, and this is a frustrating project.

I can only hope I find the right answers before I need the form completed and signed.

I finally decided on two. Both were familiar with the AHCD. One readily agreed. The other (two actually, a couple) surprisingly declined. They didn't feel they knew me all that well. We spent a fair amount of time discussing my options, especially the need for living close by, what with telecommunications being what it is. 

My friend agreed completely, as did his wife who I also know enough to entrust. They are now #1 and #2 on my list of agents. I of course sent them copies of the document. Unfortunately, they actually had a question about one of the standard phrases which I could not alter: "incurable and irreversible condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time." What is "relatively short?" Relative to what?


Good question. A day? A week? A month? In the context of the rest of the document, probably a couple of days should be sufficient. There really needs to be more guidance regarding intent. Is it back to the drawing board? There are other versions of this document. I may have to look around. It shouldn't be so hard, but I think this is important. More to come...