Imagine falling ill unexpectedly. You might be in a coma or be badly injured with brain trauma. If you can’t speak for yourself, then who will make decisions on your behalf? What will you do if you can’t make your own wishes known to the medical facility or your medical team?
Living wills and advance directives give you an opportunity to speak to your medical providers and family members without needing to in the moment. They are guidance for doctors and caregivers.
While most people think that they need these documents when they get older, the reality is that you should have one as soon as you reach adulthood. Once you’re 18, no one else can make decisions without your approval. If you cannot make decisions, then medical providers must do what they feel is best for you regardless of what your opinion may have been on the matter.
What do you need to address in your living will?
Your living will is an important document that your health care power of attorney will use to make decisions about your care. Some of the important topics to discuss in this legal document include:
- Dialysis and if you would like to receive it. If you do, how long do you want it?
- Antibiotic/antiviral use. If you approach the end of your life, do you want aggressive treatment?
- Mechanical ventilation. This helps you breathe when you cannot on your own. How long do you want to be on this machinery before removing the support?
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Do you want to have CPR if your heart fails?
- Palliative care. Would you like any kind of intervention to keep you comfortable or to help you manage your pain? Do you want to pass away at a hospital or at home?
These and other topics are important to discuss with your attorney, so that your advance directive is set up correctly and available when it’s needed. Talk to your family about your wishes, too, and make sure the person who will serve as your health care proxy has a copy.