A living will, sometimes referred to as a health care directive, is used to let others know what your health care wishes are in case of injury or a condition that leaves you non-communicative or unable to make decisions, such as injuries requiring hospitalization following a car accident or in the event of a coma.
There are several things that you may want to include in a living will to cover theoretical medical decisions:
State clearly if you would like to be resuscitated if your heart stops beating, and in which type of situations this would apply or not apply.
Include if you would like to be placed on a ventilator if you can no longer breath for yourself, and for how long you would like to remain on it.
Include if you would like to be an organ and tissue donor or not, as well as if you are interested in donating your body to science.
Discuss if you would like to be given nutrients and fluids via a stomach tube and intravenously, as well as the length of time after which these interventions should be stopped.
Other topics to discuss include dialysis, antibiotics, medications, and palliative care.
A durable power of attorney
Attorney Bernard J. Rabik of The Times suggests that, in addition to a living will, you may want to create a durable power of attorney as well. This allows a specific person of your choosing to take over in situations such as above or due to a decline in cognitive function because of dementia or other conditions. It may also be useful to have already prepared and signed in case you become incapable of managing complicated legal matters, medical decisions, or finances in your 80, 90s, or even beyond.
If done ahead of time, this can help to avoid a court having to get involved to decide who should assist you during times of incapacitation.
While the primary writing of a living will or durable power of attorney can be done on your own, be sure to consult an attorney to determine its validity and if additional wording, filing, or signing is required.
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