Living Wills Explained

A living will is a legal document that outlines your wishes for end-of-life. It is put into effect when you’re still living, but you can’t make decisions regarding your care on you own. Even when you have a living will, the hospital will still talk over decisions with your designated representative, so it is very important that you make a good choice when choosing your representative.

Function of a Living Will

Living wills, also known as advanced directives, covers the decisions that will need to be made when you’re near death. While there is a standard form for living wills, you will be able to add in sections and tailor it to fit your personal concerns regarding quality of life, such as alleviation of suffering or prolonging of life in terminal illnesses.

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Features of a Living Will

You will be able to get a living will form from your doctor’s or the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. You should know that the forms are different for each state, so make sure the form you’re using is legal in your state.

Once you have completed the form, you must sign it in front of two witnesses. They will also sign the form and will agree that you signed it of your own free will and they are not your appointed representative. In some states, relatives or your chosen representative will not be able to witness your signature.

Have copies made of your living will and provide them for your physician and family members. Don’t lock it up in your safe- unless someone else can get in- because you want it to be readily available in case you become severely injured or sick.

Once you have completed your living will, you will legally designate a representative who will carry out your living will when/if it becomes necessary. You will probably want to choose a friend or family member that understands and has agreed to make sure that your wishes are carried out. You’re not allowed to choose your physician or an employee of the hospital or institution that will be treating you at the time the living will is to be carried out. If you don’t choose a representative, decisions will be put on your spouse or closest family member.

Considerations for Living Wills

Before you begin to work on your living will, you must consider the different ways in which people die and how you want things to happen when/if it comes to that. You may want to talk it over with family and/or friends to figure out what you’d like to include in your living will.

In most cases, a living will includes instructions regarding when or if you want to be placed on a ventilator or if you want health care professionals to revive you if your heart stops. You’ll have to think about whether or not you wish to be fed through a feeding tube or IV. You’ll also need to consider whether or not you wish to be placed on dialysis if your kidneys begin to shut down.

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