If you could see the future, you’d probably be curious about your death. Sadly, there isn’t a magic crystal ball to tell you how, when, where, and all the circumstances surrounding your death. What you do have at your disposal is a living will. You might not be able to see your future, but you can play a vital role in predicting, managing, and determining what happens.
What Is a Living Will?
An advanced directive includes two documents: The living will and a Health Care Power of Attorney. The living will document is composed while the adult is competent and can only be used when the person is no longer able to make their own medical decisions. It outlines specific instructions on medical treatment in the event that the person becomes incapacitated or unable to communicate their own wishes. The living will specifically dictates what medical treatment is desired or not desired and under what circumstances. It is essentially a set of written directives for healthcare professionals to use in determining medical care if you can’t personally tell them.
A living will is not the same as the Health Care Power of Attorney, which serves to appoint a person to speak for you. Also, be careful not to confuse a living will with a last will and testament; they are not the same thing. A last will and testament outlines instructions related to your personal estate, not your health.
Advantages of a Living Will
For those that wish to have the final say in what happens to them when they become ill, injured, or otherwise incapacitated, a living will is an invaluable tool. You might have strict religious convictions related to medical treatment options, such as a blood transfusion or organ transplant, that you want to make sure are adhered with. A living will gives you the control to make your wishes known and comfort in knowing they will be followed.
Family members might know your wishes, but medical emergencies are often a chaotic and stressful time where your medical wishes might not be on the forefront of thought. A living will also eliminates the pressure and guilt from your family members making medical decisions for you, as you have already expressed the answers to difficult medical decisions with your living will. A living will should be immediately considered for those diagnosed with a terminal illness, such as cancer, or a cognitive altering disease, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. You will have the ability to dictate all types of acceptable and non-acceptable medical interventions while you are still cognitive enough to make your own decisions.
For those with an already known illness, the preparation of the living will is also a gateway to speak with your doctor and family about the illness, future aspects of the illness, and what is the best course of treatment for you. Do remember that a living will is a binding legal document and should not be made in haste. If your decision involves termination or refusal of medical care, the living will must be made under the consultation of your doctor. The living will is authorized by statues written into every single state law. Most states have created a basic language and format for the living will.