You may have heard about long drawn-out battles in the news over a loved one’s medical care. This typically occurs when we do not create a Living Will form. A Living Will is a legal document informing family and health care providers our last wishes about end of life care.
A Living Will ensures that your health care treatment is handled the way you want it done in the event that you cannot act for yourself. It can also spare your family members and loved ones additional stress if you are seriously ill or injured.
What Is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a simple legal document that provides specific instructions about health care decisions concerning you if you experience a terminal illness or incapacitation. Living Wills provide a crucial service and present clear instructions of your wishes to family, doctors and lawyers.
A Living Will specifies the type of care you do and do not want to receive from your health care providers if you are unable to address it yourself. In most cases, a Living Will form outlines how physicians should handle life-prolonging treatments. A Living Will goes into effect in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to speak.
A Living Will form is also known by other names depending on your jurisdiction. A few of the names that are also used for Living Will in the United States include:
- Advance Decision
- Advance Directive
- Advance Health Care Directive
- Declaration to Physicians
- Personal Directive
When do I need a Living Will?
The best time to write a Living Will is today. Why not go ahead and make your Living Will now and help your family take care of your last wishes if you are incapacitated. Another issue that you should be aware of is that a Living Will does have a few limitations. One or more of the following conditions must be met for a Living Will to be used for medical treatment:
- You are suffering from a terminal illness and your physician has certified that illness
- You are permanently unconscious or in a coma
- You are in later stages of dementia
- You are near the end of life
For example, if you suddenly experience a stroke but you are neither suffering from a terminal illness nor permanently unconscious, medical professionals must try to resuscitate you – even if your Living Will states that you do not want life-prolonging treatment.
Why Should I Prepare a Living Will?
If you are fairly young and not facing any serious health issues, you might wonder why you need a Living Will. It can be a stressful and emotional consideration, and one you might want to avoid. However, a Living Will can help ensure that you remain consistent with your values.
You might not wish to burden your family with costly medical bills or guilt to continue caring for you despite the circumstances, or you may hope that your condition could hasten additional research into certain types of medical issues.
In the absence of a Living Will, physicians and medical professionals will continue to treat you to the best of their ability to keep you alive, even if you are in a permanent vegetative state. Physicians learn in medical school, “First, do no harm,” and abstaining from life-prolonging medical care, unless otherwise directed, would be considered harming.
Benefits of a Living Will
A Living Will can also spare your family from having to make a difficult decision or engaging in a lasting battle. Perhaps one family member sees that there is a slim chance – very slim, but a chance nonetheless – for you to fully recover, and it causes an uproar among your loved ones on how to deal with your medical care.
It can also put an incredible burden on your family to make a decision on “having to pull the plug,” or deciding not to continue with life-prolonging treatment. Make your own decisions about your medical treatment with a Living Will today.