Home Pull the Plug or Life Support? Google Wants To Know Your Final Wishes

Pull the Plug or Life Support? Google Wants To Know Your Final Wishes

Google announced today that it has begun prompting users of its online health information service to fill out Advanced Care Directives, the documents that communicate end-of-life wishes ahead of time in case you’re unable to communicate while hospitalized. On one level, that makes sense: communicate your wishes about being kept on life support or not and store it online with a very stable service provider. On another level, though, this is creepy.

The huge stores of knowledge about our lives and world now contained on the servers of huge companies like Google and Facebook could be put to great use – or they could end up providing the foundation for a sci-fi horror story. Chances are, reality will be somewhere in between. All this centralized information about us will be useful, a little invasive and a little disappointing in the utility actually delivered. When the worst-case scenario story gets written, though, it’s hard to imagine this won’t be a chapter.

Google is working with an organization called Caring Connections to provide an Advanced Care Directive template that can be printed, filled out and then scanned. Once scanned into Google Health, it’s easy for your health care practitioner to access. Let’s hope it stays secure, that end of life information.

That sounds great. For example, we wrote this Spring about a related, independent service that provides this type of functionality called Legacy Locker. That company’s security measures look great, and they aren’t Google. Which would you prefer to entrust with your dying wishes? It’s something to think about.

Just remember that for a growing number of people, Google now knows about our search histories, our email behavior, our telephone activity, our genetic codes, what the front of our homes look like…and now how we want to be treated when we’re dying. It’s all very useful. I’m just saying.

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