It is quite common for people to ask what is a Living Will? Simply, it is a legal document that states your wishes about life prolonging medical treatments. Another term for it is health care directive, advance directive or a physician’s directive.
What a Living Will does is to inform your doctors and family members your desires for medical treatment when you can’t speak for yourself. In the document, you declare which treatment you want and which you do not want applied to you.
A Living Will does not take effect unless you are incapacitated and usually only when there isn’t any hope of recovery, like in a permanent vegetative condition.
This means only when you suffer from a terminal illness or becomes permanently unconscious, does your Living Will take effect. If you are conscious, you can speak for yourself and accept or decline any treatment that is suggested.
Since the document is written to cater for situations where you are incapacitated, the instructions have to be clear and precise. You do not want any ambiguity, or a person reading your Living Will to be confused as to what you want.
Before you draft this document, it is advisable to talk to your doctor and the person you designate as your health care proxy. Discuss with your doctor what kinds of end of life medical treatments you want. He or she can help you by answering questions you have about certain treatments.
It usually requires 2 doctors to certify that you will never recover from your condition before it take effect.
Once you’ve decided what it is you want and do not want, inform your doctor and your family members about your decision. This will help to reduce potential disagreement should you encounter this situation.
It is difficult to make a decision since they are probably making the decision to pull the plug on you. You may have to remind them that living in such state is not living at all.
Should you change your mind later and make changes to your Living Will, again inform your family members. Otherwise they might get confused over your earlier decisions.
It is also good to review your document from time to time since medical advances are occurring all the time. New treatments become available and you want to be aware of these choices when you review your Living Will.
A final note. It is common for people to confused a Living Will with a Living Trust. A Living Trust is a legal instrument to hold assets while you are still alive and is a totally different thing altogether.