Have you ever been faced with an illness that threatened to take your life? Maybe someone you know and care about was in that situation. So often people find themselves in life threatening situations due to an illness or accident. Depending on their illness or injury, they may be unable to speak or make decisions about how they want their doctor to proceed.
If left up to a family member, that person may make a decision based upon his own instinct or, sad to say, his own interest. There’s just no way to know what the patient really wants. And so many times, decisions are made without thought, care or consideration.
What Is A Living Will
This is why it’s so important to have a living will. A living will is like and, at the same time, unlike a last will and testament.
It’s similar in the sense that both documents clearly reflect what the person’s wishes are. They were thought about prior to the illness or death and they must be honored.
There can be no misinterpretation about what’s written because both documents are signed and as the song goes…sealed and delivered.
So let’s take a close look at a living will. A living will document is also called an advanced directive. It essentially directs doctors as to what your wishes are for end of life medical care.
This includes questions about life support, tube feeding, artificial hydration, pain medication and more.
This is so important because as stated above, if you can’t communicate your wishes, they won’t be honored. Not purposely but just because no one will know what your wishes are.
If you’re serious about having your last will and testament prepared, it’s advisable to be equally as serious about preparing a living will.
You wouldn’t want your family members and doctors guessing what you would want in terms of treatment because you’re too ill or injured to express it.
Everyone may have their own opinion of what they think you want and it may not be the case at all. It could end up becoming a major conflict. In many cases, it could end up in court.
Terms To Know
Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a document used in conjunction with a living will. Depending on where you live, both documents may be combined. The purpose of the document is to assign another person to ensure that the end of life treatment wishes found in the document are complied with.
Power of Attorney is the person designated to be the healthcare proxy, also known as the agent or attorney-in-fact of the person who wrote the DPOA. A person designated to be your health proxy has certain rights/responsibilities:
- make decisions about issues not addressed in your living will document
- can terminate any doctor who they feel is not adequately addressing your care
- ensure your wishes be granted in a court of law
- access to your medical recrods
- full visitation rights
Palliative care is care to decrease pain and suffering with the intention of improving the quality of life for the patient. Since palliative care can be given to patients who face life-threatening illnesses, at any stage of their illness, it should be a key item in the living will. Palliative care includes treating people with diseases such as cancer, Alzheimers, kidney disease, Parkinson’s, congestive heart failure, ALS, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to name a few. The treatment can include shortness of breath, nausea, depression, fatigue, loss of sleep, anxiety and more.
Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNR) Critical to your living will and should be added to it is the DNR Order. This clearly states your wishes for resuscitation.
Estate Planning Attorney helps people write clear and specific instructions for the future handling of healthcare among other important matters.
What Happens After Death
Once the person who wrote the DPOA passes away, the heath proxy’s authority ends. The only other possible tasks would be to make decisions about organ donating and autopsies.
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