Estate planning—ugh. Howmany of us really want tothink about this subject? Weall know how important it is,so why do we put it off, avoid researchingit, and dismiss our spouses'overturesthat we really need to get somethingin place? No doubt, we hate hearingthat we're not getting any youngerand that anything can happen—thereare lots of horror stories out thereabout financial traumas after a physicianbecomes disabled or dies suddenly.
As a doctors'doctor, I have thoughtabout this matter a lot. It enters myclinical work. I treat physicians andtheir spouses who, in addition to othertroubles, can't communicate aboutestate planning on their own. These aresome of the gripes I hear: "I'm too busyto deal with this,""Why do you keepbringing this up? It's depressing. I'mhealthy. You're healthy. It's no bigdeal,""I agree we need to go see someoneabout this. Investigate it, set up anappointment, and I'll try to make it,"and "These guys charge big bucks andwe don't need them. I'll go on-line, getsome information, and do it myself."
A Major Obstacle
Physicians are no different and nomore proactive than the rest of humankind.Sometimes we're even worse. Weoften live with paradoxes. Lookingafter sick and dying people and theirbereaved families, you would thinkthat we'd be able to consider andaccept our own mortality. The wonderfullyadaptive denial defense thatenables us to do our daily medicalwork becomes hypertrophied over theyears, and we see ourselves as immuneto the maladies that afflict our patients.As a physician once told me, "I thinkI've got an overactive denial gland."
You will see that there's much moreto estate planning than having a willand provision for your kids. There aresome real pearls in this month's featurestory (page 10), which can help youprotect your family if something badhappens to you. Clip the piece, show itto your spouse, and then take actiontogether. I call that a gift of love.
Michael F. Myers,
professor in the Department of
Psychiatry at the University of
British Columbia in Vancouver,
Canada, is the author of Doctors'
Marriages: A Look at the Problems
and Their Solutions (Plenum Pub Corp;
1994) and How's Your Marriage?: A Book for
Men and Women (American Psychiatric Press;
1998). He is the past president of the Canadian
Psychiatric Association and welcomes questions
or comments at email@example.com.