A living will is a legal document that describes your end of life wishes. You create it when you are alive, but it does not become valid until you are in an end of life situation. With a living will your agent(s) have final decision, but it should be made with medical doctors and other healthcare officials to be sure you are given the correct prognosis and so that your agents can make the right decision. You should give a copy of your living will and healthcare proxy to your local hospital, doctor, nursing facility or hospice care agency.
The living will covers common decisions your loved ones can make when you are near to dying. You have the choice to fill out the form in whatever fashion you like. Choices can be made regarding keeping you alive by machines, being kept on a feeding tube with no hope of recovery, being in a persistent vegetative state and more.
Living wills are available online and can be obtained for free. You need not pay for a living will to be drafted. Each state has its own differences so be sure you use the one for your state.
Once completed, the form should be signed in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses sign the document and attest that you signed of your own free will and that they are not your appointed health care agents or proxies. Some states do not allow relatives or people responsible for make medical decisions to be witnesses.
In your living will, you will designate someone who will be your proxy or agent. This person will be the one you choose to carry out the details of the document. Choose a family member who understands your wishes and has agreed to see that they are carried out. Do not choose a doctor or any employee of a hospital or institution that is treating you at the time it is executed. You can change your agent or proxy, but be sure that whoever got the original one has the new one replaced. The same applies to other changes to the document.
Most people don't like thinking about these things, however they are extremely important. You don't know when you will be in a situation in which this document will be needed. Be sure to complete it now before you can't. Consider all of the possibilities there are regarding your last wishes medically. There are certain powers given to your agent(s). Here are some general rules:
• "Full power to consent, refuse consent, or withdraw consent to all medical, surgical, hospital and related health care treatments and procedures on my behalf, according to my wishes as stated in this document, or as stated in a separate Living Will, Health Care Directive, or other similar type document, or as expressed to my agent by me;"
• "Full power to make decisions on whether to provide, withhold, or withdraw artificial nutrition and hydration on my behalf, according to my wishes as stated in this document, or as stated in a separate Living Will, Health Care Directive, or other similar type document, or as expressed to my agent by me;"
• "Full power to review and receive any information regarding my physical or mental health, including medical and hospital records, in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, 42 USC 1320d ("HIPAA");"
• "Full power to sign any releases in order to obtain this information;"
• "Full power to sign any documents required to request, withdraw, or refuse treatment or to be released or transferred to another medical facility."
Your document should contain sections covering the following situations:
1. "If I have an incurable and irreversible (terminal) condition that will result in my death within a relatively short time, I direct that... "
2. "If I am diagnosed as being in an irreversible coma and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that... "
3. "If I am diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I will not regain consciousness, I direct that... "
You are able to decide which choices can be made.
Other areas to be covered include:
• Intravenous and Tube Feeding
• Life Sustaining Surgery
• New Medical Developments
• Other Non-Conventional Treatments
• Home or Hospital
A living will gives you the power to choose how you would like to be cared for in the days leading to your death. It also removes some of the burden from your family when they know that they are following your wishes.
Don't fail to prepare this document. As has been stated herein already, you don't know when you will be in a situation in which this document will be needed.