Saturday, January 21, 2012

What Is A Living Will?

What does a Living Will contain:

- it is written instructions about the level of medical treatment a person wishes if they can not state their wishes verbally themselves;
- a person can be specific as to what treatment they want depending on the condition they are it;
- can specify that extra, or heroic measures are not to be taken;
- it may state that they only be kept as comfortable as possible;
- can specify if they wish their organs donated;
- it can specify who they want to oversee their wishes when they are incapable of doing so;
- it may state that a person does not want life sustaining medical procedures done by health care providers;
- it can state their wish not to be kept alive through artificial or extraordinary means.

Living Wills deal with health and personal care and are used during a person's lifetime only. It is similar to a Power of Attorney that deals with financial matters and things relating to legal issues but different from your Last Will and Testament. It will provide guidance and will release medical practitioners from legal and ethical repercussions when cure is impossible. It also prevents guilt and disagreement among family members. There will be no second-guessing what your loved one may have wanted because it will be stated clearly what the patient wished done. A Living Will is certainly something to consider as people age.

Living Wills should be updated from time-to-time because with advances in medical science, what was once a heroic measure may later become a routine procedure. Physical disability does not render a patient incapable of making a decision. Living Wills should also be changed as a patient's health changes and should be discussed with their family doctor. A copy should be given to their doctor and closest family member.

My mother had a Living Will stating her wishes not to be kept alive by artificial means and to use no heroic measures to prolong her life. Her wishes were that she be kept as comfortable as possible. After hospital staff told me she had only a matter of days, they asked me whether I wanted her taken back to the hospital from the convalescent home. The convalescent home was a lovely place where she could look out into the beautiful garden, if she had wished, and the staff so caring, I felt it was the best place for her and said no. I gave them a copy of her Living Will and any further decisions necessary were taken from my hands.

A Living Will is a health care directive stating a patient's wishes which will legally be adhered to and respected. It ensures that care will prevail.

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