Thanks to COVID-19, I now have an advance directive to express my end-of-life wishes

As a geriatric physician, I often talk with patients about how they want to die. I encourage them to complete an advance directive to ensure their wishes are followed at end of life.

Until recently, I didn’t have my own advance directive. I am healthy and have not felt a sense of urgency to write down my preferences.

COVID-19 changed all that.

It hit me one day while making rounds at the hospital.  Doctors and nurses across the nation, not just patients, are dying from this viral infection.  Due to its contagious nature, patients are not allowed to have visitors. I am heartbroken when I hear stories of people dying without their loved one’s present.

COVID-19 made me realize it was time to think about how I wanted to die. And I needed an advance directive to make sure my wishes were clearly understood.

My first step was to designate a spokesperson (surrogate) to make decisions if I should experience a terminal illness like viral pneumonia or lung failure. 

Since my decision-maker might not be at the hospital with me, my second step was to write down my wishes should I ever be put on a ventilator. I told my surrogate to let me pass away if I could not return to my previous lifestyle, including practicing medicine.

After I had my advance directive notarized, I made copies for my spokesperson, alternates, and my primary care physician.

I took these steps so my voice would be heard, even if I couldn’t talk. And I didn’t want my loved ones to feel guilty or second-guess a decision to allow me to pass away

I feel more prepared now as I care for patients. It’s comforting to know my wishes will be heard and followed in case I become seriously ill.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, which makes it the perfect time to take the first step towards completing your own advance directive. Get started today at

Our website guides you through four simple steps so you can talk, learn, plan and notarize your advance directive. And our resources tab has important state-by-state and national regulations as well as videos and planning tool kits.

Don’t let COVID-19 make you feel powerless.

Find your voice today with an advance directive.

Melissa A. Gaines, MD
Geriatric Medicine

BucketList+1 is a program of Hospice Foundation of the Ozarks. HFO provides help with choices at life’s end. For additional help getting started on an advance directive or if you have other questions about hospice and palliative care in the Ozarks, visit us at