A living will is a detailed document that directs physicians of your last wishes for end-of-life care. If you fall into a situation where you are not able to express informed consent, doctors will look to your living will for instructions on what to do next. Many people confuse the living will with the last will and testament. The living will is an entirely different document that has everything to do with your medical situation if you are terminally ill or injured to an extent where you will not survive without life support. Here is what you need to know about living wills.
Living Will Basics
Living wills deal with the refusal or desire for medical treatment if you are at the end of your life. These are the situations where a living will would come into play:
- If you have a terminal illness
- You have an otherwise fatal injury
- You fall into permanent unconsciousness
In many cases, when a situation gets to this point, the patient may not be able to communicate his or her desires. If you cannot communicate your desires and do not have a living will, doctors will use their judgment. Often, this means carrying through with treatment that you may not want. If not the doctor, it may be your spouse, adult child or other relatives that has to make the decision. Most family members will find it helpful if you have a living will that they can refer to in times like that. After all, these are challenging decisions to make, particularly if you don’t know your loved one’s wishes.
Living Will Circumstances
Other names for a living will include a declaration or advanced directive. These documents should have extensive detailing on answers to specific questions. You need to state your preferences for life support, artificial hydration, and tube feeding and pain medication. Now, a living will only be effective if you cannot communicate what you want. For instance, if you are still able to communicate your life support wishes, then you always have the power to override your living will.
When it comes to your living will, do not confuse it with the last will and testament. The last will and testament go into effect after you die. This has to do with how your property is split between survivors. The living will is only effective while you are still alive. If you need assistance drafting a living will, speak to an estate planning lawyer today.