What would you do if someone you loved had been in a severe accident and was now on life support? Would it take more courage to keep them alive or to pull the plug? Who in your family would get to decide? What if it were you who was critically injured and now on life support? These questions, while depressing to imagine and difficult to answer, are the reason for the existence of a living will. Also known as an advance directive, this document details your health care preferences should you become severely injured and end up in a vegetative state. It is your chance to have a say in what happens to you after you can no longer physically communicate your wishes.
What Does A Living Will Say?
The living will states a number of life-threatening medical scenarios and allows you to choose possible responses to them, as well as the degree to which your medical assistance should continue treatment or not based upon results. Here’s an example: If you are in a coma, you would prefer your doctor should do everything they can to prolong your life and treat everything, and stop the treatment if there is no improvement.
There are many good things that come with making a living will. To name a few:
- It gives you the opportunity to have your humans rights recognized and respected.
- It is a chance to fully discuss and communicate end of life decisions between you and your loved ones. These conversations can be difficult, but necessary for a smooth transition post-mortem, should your death occur.
- Doctors will be required to give appropriate treatment, regardless of perceived pain or suffering. If the patient has asked for no treatment, no matter the suffering, the doctor must honor the patient’s wishes.
- The difficult decision of what happens to your life is ultimately in your hands. This relieves the pressure from your loved ones and from medical professionals. Studies also show by planning for an end of life situation, loved ones experience less anxiety and depression when the time comes.
- You get the final say, whether you are actually able to say it aloud or not.
In order for your living will to be of service to you, you must keep it up-to-date. If your preferences ever change from what is reflected on the document, it is in your best interest to update your information as soon as you can. Once you refile your living will, all past versions become null and void, so there is no need to worry about confusion in crossover.
You will be asked to appoint a healthcare agent when signing—someone whom you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf. You should think truthfully about who will fit this title for you. They will need to have the emotional strength to deal with their grief and do what is best for you based on your wishes. They will literally have your life in their hands. You should also consider the fact of time: will this person be there for you until the end? It is important that they support your decisions and accept the responsibility of advocating for you.
You must also do your best to be completely honest with yourself about what you think you will want in a dying state of mind. Your living will cannot speak best for you if you filled it out without considering it may end up being used.
It is best to keep a copy of your living will nearby. Whether safe with a close relative or loved one, or on file at your attorney’s office, it is of no use to you if nobody has access to it once you become incapacitated. You should also share the document with your primary care physician. The more they are in the loop about your end of life plans, the more they can try to help you get what you want.
When Should I Make a Living Will?
You can create and sign your living will tomorrow if you wish. It is often a bit more realistic to your truest
wishes when signed at the early stages of a disease or long-term disability. But if you are young, there is always the option to update it as time goes on, so there is no reason you shouldn’t sign one as soon as you are able. Contact Watts Law Firm for legal assistance with your living will. An attorney will help you understand all of the fine print and implications of the document. Additionally, the presence of a trained professional will make you comfortable and confident in these difficult decisions.
The good news is that before your living will can guide medical decision-making, two physicians must certify that you are unable to make medical decisions and you are in a terminally ill state. The rules for when your living will can be put into place vary by state, but these two are true for all states. So do not worry if you have a life-threatening disease and believe your living will may be enacted too soon. It is a last resort and aimed to help you have the most peaceful end to a beautiful life.
It’s hard to comprehend your own vulnerability. But ideally with some attention and communication, your best interests can be served by those you love.