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Do you have a Living Will?

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A living will is a statement that authorizes someone whether to be kept alive by a life support system should a person become terminally ill or is in a prolonged and irreversible vegetative state. It is concerning serious questions such as, tube feeding, artificial hydration and pain medication. A living will becomes necessary if and when a person is unable to communicate on his/her own. Moreover, some hospitals do require such a document when admitting a patient just in case.

As a matter of fact a living will is an Advance Medical Directive provides guidelines and authority to the attending physicians to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures that merely prolong the dying process and are not necessary to one's comfort or freedom from pain. A Living Will sets forth the patient's intentions in case of terminal illness or persistent unconsciousness. A Medical Power of Attorney authorizes an agent to make health care decisions for the patient when he or she is no longer capable of making them. Most states allow for a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney to be combined into one document.

These legal documents spell out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don't want. These are used as a guide, but do not spell out each possible situation.

The following are the elements of a living will, though, they may differ in each state:

The witnesses (number depends upon state of residence) be over 18 years of age

Each witness witnesses the signing of the advance directive by the patient.

The patients healthcare provider or an employee of the health care provider or owner and employee of a community/residential facility cannot act as witnesses. At least one witness should not be related to the patient in any way and nor should that witness be a beneficiary of the estate of the patient when the living will is being executed.

The most common decisions that require the patient's authorization include, in addition to infinite number of medical situations, are:
Resuscitation. Restarts the heart when it has stopped beating (cardiac death).

Mechanical ventilation. Takes over your breathing if you're unable to do so.

Nutritional and hydration assistance. Supplies the body with nutrients and fluids intravenously or via a tube in the stomach.

Dialysis. Removes waste from your blood and manages fluid levels if your kidneys no longer function.

Treatments in the end stages of life. Examples include but are not limited to antibiotics, pain medication and mechanical ventilation. Would you want to receive these as comfort (palliative) care if your prognosis was that it would only delay imminent death?

A person can write a separate "Durable Power of Attorney" to make medical and/or financial decisions that will be discussed in a separate article which like the above would be just for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is always advisable to consult an attorney.

Click here for sample free living Will form.

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