Welcome to the Living Will!
2. Drafting A Living Will
3. Maintaining a Living Will
Living wills are for adults of all ages, not just the elderly. Some of the most famous court cases about the right to die have involved those in their 20s because it is harder to accept the death of someone so young and often there are parents, siblings and spouses to consult. With older people you often expect them to die soon so the trauma is not as severe.
There are good reasons to write down your wishes about end-of-life medical care:
• You might be too sick to explain what you want when the time comes.
• Your family might disagree about what to do, which leaves doctors in a tough spot and more likely to keep you on life support.
• You can help your family with the really tough decision of whether or not to take you off life support
• Living wills often include legal protection for doctors and hospitals, so they don’t get sued for honoring your request.
Different states have different rules for what living wills should cover, but they all allow you to refuse aggressive life support if you’re close to death, or facing a lingering and painful death without affecting your right to get pain medicine or other “comfort care.”
Refusing medical treatment is not considered suicide; it’s not illegal or immoral to let nature take its course.
Write down your views and discuss them with your family and doctor. You may find out that your doctor does not agree with your views and will not honor them, if this is the case its time to find another doctor.
Drafting A Living Will
Each state honors the living will although there are different requirements for each state. Some need two witnesses and some one. Some states don’t require any witnesses. Some require the document to be notarized and some don’t.
A local lawyer can fill you in on the legal requirements for a living will in your state or you can go to the web site listed below and for a small fee have a living will downloaded to you according to your state laws.
Almost every other country in the world also honors living wills but before you have one drawn up for your country of residence please check into the laws governing them.
Once it's completed, give a copy of your living will to:
• Your regular physician
• Family members
• A close friend and/or religious guide such as your church minister.
• The hospital you’re most likely to use. You can mail it to their medical records department, with a cover letter that gives your date of birth and your Social Security number. Check that they have received a copy of the document and will honor it if it is needed.
• If you’re in a nursing home or are seeing a medical specialist for a serious illness, they ought to get a copy, too
Put a card in your wallet explaining that you have a living will, list the persons to contact to get a copy. If you’re going into a hospital, bring a copy with you even if you sent one to the medical records department.
Maintaining a Living Will
There’s usually no need to update a living will, but it’s a good idea to check every few years to see if your state’s laws have changed. Keeping your living will updated will also show that you have not changed your mind about these matters.
Remember, every state allows you to change your mind. If later you do change your mind about your living will it is a very good idea to inform the people who have a copy of your living will in writing that you have changed your mind.
No amount of planning can cover all the problems that crop up when we get sick. But it sure can help you and your family when heart-breaking decisions need to be made.
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- Life Science
- Elftown Academy