Living Will, also known as will to live, are legal documents in which an individual expresses in advance his/her wish relating to the use of artificial life-supporting means, to be referred to if the person concerned is unable to convey such wishes at the dusk of his/her life. Generally the living will allows an individual to withheld or withdrawn certain treatment if using the treatment will only prolong his/her dying process; or if he/she is unconscious or is in a vegetative state and seems to have no chance of recovery. An example of such treatments includes feeding tubes or resuscitation in case one’s heart stops beating.
Generally a Living Will takes effect only after two physicians certify that a patient is incapable of making medical decisions and that the medical circumstances of the patient are within the contours of the guidelines as laid down by the particular state’s living-will law. Living wills are usually used to tell the patient’s dear ones and doctors to stop life-sustaining techniques like mechanical respirators, cardiopulmonary resuscitation or intravenous feeding that the patient would refuse if he/she is able to do so.
Living Will is an vital component in many cases because if there is no clear and convincing evidence of a patient’s wishes, the hospital authorities will continue life-sustaining equipments as long as possible owing to the hospital policies, moral beliefs of a doctor, or the fear of liability, even if the family members of the patient think that the patient’s wishes would be otherwise.
In most cases if you don’t have a living will, your family members will make take decisions for you. If you are a minor child, your parents are considered as the persons who can take decisions for you. If you are an adult with a legal partner, then that person will be your decision makers. But this may some times end in complications if some of family members or other significant persons come with different opinions. This is why living wills are considered as an important means for expressing your will to live.
It is highly recommended that each individual should make his living will. You can get living will forms from your health care provider. You can also download state specific living will forms from the Internet for free.
Fill out all the columns correctly, sign it and make several copies of it and keep the original form in a safe place. Provide a copy of your living will form to the person/persons whom you have designated as your decision maker, as well as to your health care provider, hospital, and any other significant person who needs it.
You can also change your living will when ever needed. If you are changing what you have written in the living will or choosing some other person as your decision maker, just fill out a new form specifying your current wish. As previously done send your new form to all those who need them such as your decision maker, health care provider, hospital, and significant family members. The most current form is always the valid one.