Without warning, serious injuries or illnesses sometimes occur, leaving people physically or mentally incapacitated and, in some cases, at risk of death. Life-threatening situations often require medical decisions that may affect their outcome. If patients in such cases cannot make decisions themselves, these types of important choices fall to others.
Creating a living will allow people to express their wishes regarding medical treatments, even if they cannot speak for themselves.
Making decisions for the unexpected
According to MayoClinic.org, living wills allow people to specify their wishes regarding specific medical treatments. For example, this type of advance care directive often includes preferences on receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation, tube feeding, mechanical ventilation dialysis and other such modalities. Through living wills, people also dictate their wishes for comfort care, as well as for organ, tissue and body donations.
With few exceptions, doctors must carry out the wishes people specify in their living wills. Family members typically cannot intervene and give permission for or not authorize medical care that goes against the patients’ preferences as indicated in their advance care plans.
Expressing wishes to physicians and family
According to the National Institute on Aging, advance directives such as living wills sometimes require state forms, notarization or other actions. When creating their end-of-life plans, people should make sure they follow their state’s requirements to ensure the validity of their documents. Some states have registries to store advance directives, allowing for quick and easy access by medical professionals in emergencies.
Even if young or in good health, creating a living will may help people prepare for the unexpected.