A living will, is a legal document that outlines an individual’s wishes for medical treatment in the event that they become unable to make decisions for themselves due to a terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. It allows individuals to express their preferences for medical care and treatments, such as life-sustaining measures, in advance of any incapacity. It is important to note that a living will is different from a regular will, which is a legal document that outlines an individual’s wishes for the distribution of their assets and property after death. A living will deals with the medical treatments and end of life care, while a regular will deals with the distribution of assets and property.
How do living wills work?
Living wills are activated when an individual is unable to communicate their medical treatment preferences due to a terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. The document is typically reviewed by medical professionals, who use it to guide the individual’s care and treatment. The living will can also be used by family members or legal representatives as a guide for making decisions on the individual’s behalf.
Requirements for a living will
The requirements for a living will vary depending on the state in which you reside. Typically, a living will must be in writing, signed by the individual and witnessed by at least two adults. In some states, notarization may also be required. It is important to consult with an attorney or healthcare professional to ensure that the living will meets all of the requirements for your state.
What to include in a living will
A living will should include specific instructions for medical treatment and care in the event of a terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. Some of the key topics that should be addressed in a living will include:
This involves the use of mechanical ventilation, which is a life-sustaining measure that involves using a machine to help you breathe. This can be used if you have a serious illness or injury that affects your ability to breathe on your own. It’s important to indicate in your living will if you would like to receive mechanical ventilation or not, and under what circumstances you would like to receive it.
This is a life-sustaining measure that involves providing nutrition and hydration through a tube. This can be used if you have a serious illness or injury that affects your ability to eat and drink on your own. It’s important to indicate in your living will if you would like to receive tube feeding or not, and under what circumstances you would like to receive it. It’s also important to indicate your preferences if you want to be fed by natural means as long as possible.
Medications and treatment
This includes instructions on the types of medications and treatments you wish to receive, such as antibiotics or chemotherapy. It’s also important to indicate if you wish to refuse certain treatments, like an artificial hydration, or if you want to be on hospice care. It’s important to consider the potential benefits and risks of different treatments and medications, and indicate your preferences in your living will.
This involves measures to keep you comfortable, such as pain management. This can include the use of pain medication, as well as other comfort measures like massage or music therapy. It’s important to indicate in your living will what measures you would like to be taken to keep you comfortable, and under what circumstances you would like to receive them.
This includes instructions on whether or not you wish to donate your organs or other bodily tissue after death. This can include organ donation, tissue donation, or even whole body donation for medical research or education. It’s important to indicate in your living will if you would like to make a donation and what specific donations you would like to make.
This includes instructions on what you would like to happen after your death, and how they handle your remains. It also includes your preference for funeral arrangements and other posthumous decisions like autopsy or cremation and scattering of ashes. It’s important to indicate in your living will what your preferences are for posthumous decisions, to ensure that your wishes are respected.
Do you need a lawyer to do a living will?
While it is not necessary to have a lawyer to create a living will, it is recommended that you consult with one to ensure that the document meets all of the legal requirements for your state and that your wishes are clearly outlined. A lawyer can also help you navigate any legal issues that may arise in relation to your living will.
Difference between a living will and an advance directive?
A living will and an advance directive are often used interchangeably, but they can also refer to slightly different documents. A living will typically outlines an individual’s medical treatment preferences in the event of a terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness, while an advance directive can also include a living will, it also includes a durable power of attorney for healthcare, which names an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
Difference between living will and medical power of attorney
A living will and a medical power of attorney are two different types of advance directives. A living will outlines an individual’s medical treatment preferences in the event of a terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness, while a medical power of attorney, also known as a healthcare proxy, names an individual to make medical decisions on the individual’s behalf if they are unable to do so. The medical power of attorney is typically used in situations where the individual is not terminally ill but is unable to make decisions for themselves, such as if they are in a coma or have severe cognitive impairment.
Do you need a living will?
Whether or not you need a living will is a personal decision that should be made based on your individual circumstances and preferences. It is important to consider what you would want in terms of medical treatment and care if you were unable to make decisions for yourself due to a terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. If you have strong feelings about certain medical treatments or interventions, it is recommended that you consider creating a living will to ensure that your wishes are respected.
It is also worth noting that many states have laws that allow family members to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so, but this may not align with your wishes. Having a living will can give you peace of mind that your loved ones will know what you want and can act accordingly.
It is important to review and update your living will regularly as your wishes may change over time and you want to make sure that your wishes are up to date.