“What is a living will?” you ask? That is an excellent question. A living will, also known as a healthcare directive, is a legal document that informs your family members and physicians of your wishes with regard to medical decisions. More specifically, this is the document that lets your doctors know how you would like to be cared for in the event that you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself. Everyone, no matter how old or how young, should prepare a living will in case of an emergency.
What Is a Living Will?
Although no one likes to imagine that they might end up unconscious, incapacitated, and unable to respond to a doctor’s questions during a medical emergency, these unfortunate situations do happen. A living will is immensely helpful during such an emergency. It allows you to clearly state what you would like to happen to you in certain medical situations. If you do not create a living will, your family will be asked to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated, and their decisions may not reflect your own opinions. The living will allows you to express your healthcare wishes clearly and legally despite your incapacity.
The document can state opinions, forbid procedures, and specify desires. It becomes active when you cannot make decisions for yourself due to incapacity or illness. Its power ends at your death or very shortly after your death (in the case of organ donation).
Crafting a Living Will
When you set up your living will, consult your physician and lawyer for help. Your physician can help you select the types of procedures that are the most agreeable to you, and they can explain confusing situations and procedures in more detail. For example, here are some of the decisions and procedures you may wish to address in your living will:
- Life-saving measures
- Palliative care (medical care that focuses on providing relief and comfort)
- Pain killers
- Breathing tubes
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Organ donation
As you create your living will, you must carefully consider your values regarding health, life, and death. For example, what value do you place in independence and self-sufficiency? If possible, would you choose to extend your life through treatment no matter what the situation? Under what circumstances (if any) do you believe your life would no longer be worth living?
The contents of your living will can be as general or specific as you like. Your lawyer will ensure that the document is correctly crafted and legally binding.
Talk to Your Loved Ones
It is important to have your wishes expressed in writing, but it is even more important to talk to your loved ones about your wishes. It can be gut wrenching for family members to make an end-of-life decision for a loved one. They will find comfort in your past conversations, and it will give them confidence in their decision-making abilities if a critical situation should arise.
Whether you’re fresh out of college or in the midst of your sunset years, it is important to know the answer to the question, “What is a living will?” Even more crucially, you must take a little time to craft a living will, ensuring that it reflects your personal values and wishes. With this critical plan in place, you can rest easy and continue enjoying life!
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