I will boldly proclaim that Seinfeld is the greatest TV show of all time. Commonly referred to as the "show about nothing," Jerry Seinfeld and the cast produced episode upon episode of comedic brilliance for nine years.
Recently, I revisited the episode titled "The Comeback." Kramer, the name of a lead character, rented the movie The Other Side of Darkness. Apparently one of the characters in the movie falls into a coma. This inspires Kramer to begin planning for incapacity. He nominates his friend Elaine to serve as the health care attorney-in-fact because, as he puts it, "you're a calculating, cold-hearted business woman. And when there's dirty work to be done, you don't mind stomping on a few throats." In his estate planning attorney's office, Kramer relies on Elaine to provide his wishes regarding several end-of-life hypotheticals. When considering whether or not to turn off a life supporting system, Elaine says, "yank it like you're starting a mower."
Another wrench is thrown into Kramer's plan when he continues watching The Other Side of Darkness and realizes the character comes out of the coma.
Kramer: "I didn't know it was possible to come out of a coma."
Jerry: "I didn't know it was possible not to know that."
While Seinfeld had a knack for putting a humorous slant on an otherwise sensitive subject, statistics show that incapacity planning is no laughing matter. According to a 2012 New York Times Editorial which highlights a 2006 Pew Research Center poll, "only 69 percent had discussed end-of-life care with a spouse; just 17 percent, or 40 percent of those over 65, had done so with their children." Furthermore, only "one-third of Americans had a living will and even fewer have taken the more legally enforceable measure of appointing a health care proxy to act on their behalf if they cannot act for themselves." (The full New York Times Editorial is available online at
Given that we are all likely to suffer from some form of disability during our lifetimes it is critical that we think through these issues carefully and that we prepare the following documents necessary to effectuate our desires:
Living Will – A living will is a document that is executed for the purpose of expressing the testator's desires if that individual is in an irreversible, incurable, and permanent vegetative state.
Advanced Healthcare Directive – The advanced healthcare directive allows us to nominate an agent to make health care decisions for us if we become incapable of making our own decisions. It also allows us to make choices regarding withholding or withdrawing treatment and pain relief. We express our desire to donate organs and tissues and designate a physician to have primary responsibility for our health care.
By executing these documents, we are doing our loved ones a favor. As we clearly articulate our intentions through legal documents, our loved ones will have the peace of mind in knowing that our desires wishes will be fulfilled.