A living will is a type of advance directive delineating your preferences for end-of-life care in the event you become incapable of making your wishes known. Age does not dictate these crises; they can happen at any time. For anyone over the age of 18, advance directives ensure you receive the level of care you prefer, while protecting your loved ones from having to make these decisions on your behalf.
Each state has its own rules regarding what to do if someone suffers incapacitation with an advance directive such as a living will or medical power of attorney.
What Is a Living Will?
Despite the word “will,” a living will has nothing to do with how you choose to leave your estate. Instead, it details your wishes regarding medical intervention in the event you face an end-of-life event such as terminal illness or traumatic injury leaving you in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma.
Your living will has greatest value when it is both general and specific. You need specificity to ensure others know your wishes, but you also need to allow room for your agent to act or make decisions as your condition changes.
Determining Your Wants
Your living will indicates items such as CPR, intubation, and artificial feeding and hydration. Are there situations you want these things and others where you do not? Consider your feelings toward independence, self-sufficiency, and quality of life. Discussion with your primary doctor now, while you enjoy good health, helps in making these decisions.
Also, address palliative care, sometimes called comfort care. This includes treatments such as pain management as well as being moved to your home or placed in hospice care.
If you choose to donate organs or tissue, this often requires life-sustaining treatment that may run contrary to some of your treatment choices. Including a statement that you approve temporary intervention in order to harvest organs or tissue can help alleviate confusion.
Protecting Your Family
Although these conversations are difficult, ultimately drafting a living will protects your family and loved ones. Few people would welcome the responsibility of choosing to deny a loved one medical treatment, even when the loved one makes that choice. Making your wishes known in a legal document such as a living will ensures both loved ones and medical staff understand your wants, so they may abide by them. You protect yourself and your loved ones with a living will.