A living will, commonly referred to as an advance directive, is a document that provides instructions regarding end-of-life care. Living wills allow you to make your own choices about life support and helps prevent confusion about the type of care you do or do not want in the event you become incapable of communicating your wishes. Without a living will, the laws in your state will determine who will make your health care decisions.
- Provide instructions about the care you do or don't want at the end of your life.
- Your wishes are in writing. No one can legally override the decisions you've already made.
- You can also choose someone you trust to speak for you on health care matters.
You can choose to have your life prolonged as much as reasonably possible by procedures like tube feeding or mechanical respiration. Or you can say you don't want to be kept alive by artificial means. You also can name someone to be in charge of making sure your wishes are honored, and to make other health care decisions for you.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who can make a living will?
Generally, anyone who is at least 18 years old and of sound mind can create one. "Sound mind" usually means the ability to understand what the document is and what it contains.
When does my living will go into effect?
Your living will takes effect when it's determined that you're in a severe medical condition, with no hope of recovery, and unable to communicate your wishes. If you name someone to be in charge of your medical decisions unrelated to life support, the document goes into effect when you can't make decisions for yourself.
How will my doctor decide that I can't make decisions for myself?
Doctors usually determine you've lost decision-making ability if you can't understand your treatment choices or communicate your wishes in any way.
Once I sign my advance directive, is my task done?
Not necessarily. You should also have a discussion with your doctor, family and health care agent to make sure they understand your wishes. You may also need to update it if your health or family status changes, or to name a new health care agent.
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