Near the end of her life, Carley Cunniff wrote this letter with the assistance of Dr. Peter Dixon and her health care proxies. It is shared here as one example of a health care directive that played a crucial role in guiding caregivers at the end of Carley’s life. This letter is part of the Healthcare Proxy/Living Will package:
“To My Health Care Proxy, Andy or Marian B.S. Young, and to my wonderful family:
With complete foreknowledge of the consequences of my doing so, I hereby fully relieve and release, and without hesitation or qualiﬁcation ﬁrmly direct and require my Executor(s) to relieve and release each of my personal physicians and each other Health Care professional, para-professional, administrator, etc. (without limitation) from any and all responsibility and/or liability, blame or accountability for following my wishes as interpreted and expressed by my Health Care Proxy or Agent, even if doing so appears to hasten the moment of my death and/or represent a failure to follow the Hippocratic Oath. I implore you,medical professionals, to hear, heed and honor my wishes.
I am writing this to augment the instructions on the attached formal Health
Care Proxy. I have been very fortunate in my life to have been blessed, until recently, with excellent health and a strong physical constitution. As a result, I have enjoyed substantial independence of thought and action for most of my adult years. I abhor the idea of becoming a long-term drain and physical and/or psychological burden to my wonderful family and friends, despite my conﬁdence that this is a burden they would likely accept willingly or at least stoically. It is not the way I would choose to ﬁnish out my life, and it is not the way I would choose to be remembered. The idea of total helplessness and dependence depresses me as I think about it today, still in fairly good health and personal control despite my cancer diagnosis. I love life, but it is life as I have known it, with substantial independence of thought and action, with the capacity for joy. The nature of my cancer has been such that I have already had several years to contemplate the idea of “untimely” death. There are worse things! A graceless, protracted and burdensome demise is one of them. Thank you for assuming and executing this responsibility on my behalf.
To my wonderful siblings: While I love and trust all of you, I wish to spare each
and all of you the responsibility which my appointing one or more of you would or might subject you to, and I fervently insist that each of you support the directives which Marian issues as my Health Care proxy.
Thank you so much.
Signed at Essex, Connecticut, this 29th day of December 2004.”