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Living Will Explained

Living Will Explained

Living Will Explained: Understanding End-of-Life Decisions

A living will is an important legal document that outlines an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment and end-of-life decisions. In this article, we will explain what a living will is, why it is important, and what type of information is typically included.

What is a Living Will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that outlines an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that they become unable to make decisions for themselves. The purpose of a living will is to ensure that an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment are respected and followed, even if they are unable to communicate them due to illness or injury.

Why is a Living Will Important?

A living will is important for several reasons. First, it allows an individual to make their wishes regarding medical treatment known in advance, reducing the likelihood of confusion or disagreement among family members or healthcare providers. Second, it allows the individual to maintain control over their medical treatment, even if they are unable to communicate their wishes. Finally, a living will can help to reduce the stress and burden on family members who may be called upon to make difficult medical decisions on behalf of their loved ones.

What is Included in a Living Will?

A living will typically includes information regarding the individual’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment, such as artificial respiration, hydration, and nutrition. It may also include information regarding pain management and other palliative care measures. In addition, a living will may include instructions regarding organ donation and funeral arrangements.

How to Create a Living Will?

Creating a living will is a relatively straightforward process. The first step is to decide what type of medical treatment you would want or not want in the event that you become unable to communicate your wishes. This may involve consulting with your healthcare provider and family members, as well as considering any cultural or religious beliefs that may influence your decisions.

Once you have a clear understanding of your wishes, you can begin to prepare your living will. This can be done with the assistance of an attorney, or through online templates or legal forms. It is important to ensure that your living will is properly executed and witnessed, and that copies are provided to your healthcare provider, family members, and other relevant individuals.

In conclusion, a living will is an important legal document that can help to ensure that an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment and end-of-life decisions are respected and followed. By taking the time to create a living will, individuals can maintain control over their medical treatment and reduce the stress and burden on family members during difficult times.

An individual may enter into a vegetative state due to a progressive terminal illness or an unfortunate and tragic accident. As a terminal illness progresses and a patient nears the end of life, his/her system will eventually shut down and he/she will stop breathing. In these situations, doctors will attempt to resuscitate the patient, and accordingly, it is often left to the family to determine when to cease and desist extensive methods of sustaining a patient’s life.

When doctors determine that there is no chance that a patient will recover and he/she will remain in a permanent comatose state, his/her family must decide when to end life-sustaining care. This may cause feelings of anger and altercations between family members.

Some family members may believe it is unethical to keep an individual alive in this state, while other family members may view the termination of life support as an egregious act. Clearly, this situation may be very difficult for families, as they try to determine what course of action is in the best interest of their kin as patient.

This situation may be avoided to a large extent, however, if an individual establishes a living will. Living wills allow individuals to detail their wishes regarding medical treatment in the event that they are terminally ill or seriously injured, and are unable to divulge their own desires at the time of treatment. If an individual does not wish to be subjected to extraordinary life-sustaining treatments, such as feeding tubes and ventilation machines, he/she can document this in a living will.

If an individual becomes unresponsive, with little or no chance of recovery, the living will will inform doctors of the patient’s wishes. Likewise, if an individual has a terminal illness and does not wish to be resuscitated once they stop breathing, this can be recorded in his/her living will.  It is important for an individual and his/her family to understand that living wills are generally only effective if there is very little or no chance that he/she will ever make a full recovery.

For example, if an individual will survive, but will be required to utilize a feeding tube for the rest of his/her life, then doctors will adhere to the wishes set forth in the living will. However, if it is expected that patients will eventually return to a normal life without the need of life sustaining equipment, then living wills may not be effective.

When creating living wills, it is important for people to carefully and specifically detail all of their wishes. They should not be vague when refusing medical treatment; an individual should state exactly what procedures or support he/she will allow and which ones he/she does not want. If an individual will accept an artificial pacemaker, but does not want a feeding tube inserted, he/she must record this in his/her living will.

Also, an individual should specify what conditions, if any, he/she will allow life-sustaining support. For example, he/she may find this support to be acceptable if there is reasonable evidence that he/she will eventually recover. Living wills can be created by any individual that is over the age of eighteen and is mentally stable. This may be a prudent measure after all, as unexpected, traumatic accidents can occur at any age.