Rochester doctor says don’t put off advance directives - Catholic Courier
A man stands at a podium and speaks about end-of-life care and advance directives.

Dr. Thomas Carroll leads a discussion on advance directives Oct. 6 at Henrietta’s Guardian Angels Church. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Rochester doctor says don’t put off advance directives

Have you considered completing documents noting your end-of-life wishes, but hesitated because doing so requires contemplating the fact that life will someday end?

If so, you’re far from alone, according to Dr. Thomas Carroll.

“We’re allergic to the idea of death in this modern America,” Carroll remarked to the Catholic Courier while stressing the importance of advance directives.

These documents spell out preferred medical treatments if a person becomes physically or mentally unable to make such decisions on his or her own. The term advance directives covers three distinct forms: health-care proxy, living will, and medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST).

Carroll said it’s vital to put advance directives in place so that one’s wishes are clear to loved ones and medical personnel in end-of-life circumstances.

“It’s worth thinking about these things — not like becoming morbidly obsessed over it, but to sort of say, ‘You know, (end of life) is going to happen,’” observed Carroll, who serves as president of the Finger Lakes Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. He gave a presentation on advance directives Oct. 6 at Henrietta’s Guardian Angels Church as part of St. Marianne Cope Parish’s Fruit of the Vine conversation series.

Doctor recommends not delaying on completing a health-care proxy

Carroll said adults of all ages should complete health-care proxies. This directive is a legally binding document by which an individual appoints a trusted person as a proxy, or agent, to make key medical decisions on his or her behalf if the individual becomes unable to make such decisions. Proxy forms may be obtained from doctor’s offices, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as online at

Carroll strongly recommended completing a health-care proxy as soon as possible, pointing out that anyone can become incapacitated at any time, regardless of age or current health condition.

“Honestly, car accidents happen,” he remarked. “Everyone should have a proxy, period — no questions asked, just do it.”

Carroll noted that the person chosen to act as a proxy can be either a family member or friend. The key criterion is that it’s some one trustworthy who will adhere to the individual’s preferences.

“The question is not what do you (the proxy) want for your loved one. The question is what would your loved one want” for himself or herself, explained Carroll, a medical doctor and associate professor of medicine and palliative care at University of Rochester Medical Center.

Doctor stresses the need to research all options involving advance directives

Carroll added that adults also should consider making a living will — a legal document providing written instructions about specific health-care treatment and care options. Notable topics covered are nutrition, hydration, pain relief, antibiotics and/or the use of ventilators.

Meanwhile, a MOLST — the third advance directive — conveys to physicians and other health-care providers a patient’s wishes regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other life-sustaining treatments.

Because advance directives literally deal with matters of life and death, Carroll said it’s vital to do as much research as possible on available options before putting one’s wishes in writing. Yet, he remarked, too many people “are very uninformed about ordinary and extraordinary circumstances and unprepared for their situations” in regard to end-of-life.

A parishioner at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, Carroll noted that Catholic teaching on end-of-life issues occasionally is at odds with secular views in the medical and political arenas. Therefore, he recommends researching Catholic perspectives by consulting such documents as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives at, and “Now and at the Hour of Our Death” at

Tags: Life Issues
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