Everything in this world is transient. Times keep changing and a person who is in the pink of health may suddenly be hospitalized and be living on life support. Under such circumstances, when death is inevitable or a better option when compared to lifelong suffering, a document that makes your wishes known can be quite helpful.
A revocable living will is an important document that may turn out to be the answer in a life and death situation. This document is also known as the advanced medical directive in some states. The best example of someone who has used a living will to live life on his terms is former U.S. President Richard Nixon.
Mr. Nixon suffered from a severe stroke that caused irreversible brain damage. While there was a chance that he could have survived, living on a respirator in a vegetative state, it was a state that indicated much suffering. Mr. Nixon had prepared an advanced medical directive for himself that directed the doctors to let him die a natural and peaceful death.
Living Will vs. Living Trust
People often confuse these two documents. While the latter is used to transfer property to the beneficiaries, the former helps you communicate your decision about the course of treatment that needs to be taken to keep you alive by support systems, in case you are in a condition wherein death seems inevitable.
This legal document comes into effect only in case of terminally ill patients or those in a permanent unconscious state of mind or those who are conscious but suffering from irreversible brain damage.
Writing the Document
It is important to follow these steps to ensure that the document is sound and can be verified if needed. Firstly, it is important to take into account all types of situations and care that may come up. This document acts as your voice when you are unable to communicate and is, therefore, important that you take all possible situations into consideration.
✦ Circumstances: You need to mention all the exact circumstances under which you may or may not want to receive medical care. You can ask for pain relief and decline life-prolonging procedures.
✦ Ventilator: A mechanical pump that will help you breathe when you cease to breathe on your own. You can specify in your will whether you may or may not want to live with the help of a mechanical breathing apparatus.
✦ CPR: In many cases, cardiopulmonary resuscitation is resorted to, if the heart stops pumping. This is done to keep a brain-dead person alive. You can include this clause when writing the will or even include it as a separate standalone like a 'Do Not Resuscitate' order.
✦ Artificial Feeding and Intravenous Fluids: These fluids are given to a patient to provide nutrients and prevent dehydration. You can specify whether or not you want to be given nutrition using these fluids or you can specify the duration for which you should be provided nutrition in this form.
These are a few examples of the various circumstances, situations, and treatment methods that can be mentioned when you draft this document. When you make a living will, you need to consult your doctor regarding your decision and the medical issues that need to be mentioned.
You should also discuss the document with your family and you should understand their wishes and listen to their opinion. Explain to them your point of view and even if there is a conflict, try and resolve the same with your family. If you are a religious person, then it may be a good idea to consult your priest.
State's Copy of Living Will
Each state has set specific rules and guidelines regarding the creation of such a will. If you want to create this document, then you need to follow the respective state laws. You will need to obtain the state's living will form from the state health department, local hospitals, or doctors.
You may also need to appoint a lawyer to help you prepare the document, and also to ensure that this document and any other legal will that you have are in conjunction. If you relocate from one state to another, you may have to remake the document as it is not nationally standardized.
Once your form is filled, ensure you don't miss out on any extra or specific wishes you want to make. After writing the form, sign it and get it witnessed according to the specifications of your state law. Once the form is completed, make copies of the will and give it to your family members, doctors, lawyers, and keep a copy with your important papers.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney helps you appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf. This situation arises when you are unconscious or cannot take medical decisions due to some reason. The person given your health care power of attorney is known as an 'agent'.
An agent is an important part of a legal living will, as this is the person who will weigh all the pros and cons of the treatment method suggested and make a decision based on your wishes.
Your decision to write this directive can prove to be a boon for you and your loved ones. If ever there is a case when the will needs to be executed, you can be sure that things will be taken care of according to your wishes. You need to keep updating your will as medical technology is advancing every minute. A living will helps you die with dignity.