A living will is a legal document codifying your expectations and preferences regarding medical treatment and life-sustaining procedures you want and don’t want to be provided with upon getting permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
The core idea behind a living will is to give your family members or health agents clear directions for end-of-life healthcare so that they do not face ethical or moral dilemmas about the appropriate standard of care.
The easiest way to have a living will is to download FormsPal living will forms for free and fill in the gaps. But before sending it to a lawyer and making it a legal document, make sure to study the critical facts about living wills to make informed decisions.
A Living Will Is Legally Binding
A living will you compose and notarize is a legally binding document healthcare providers will be bound to comply with. Thus, if you don’t wish to be resuscitated or don’t want to live on life-sustaining equipment, put it into your living will. The provider will make appropriate arrangements for you based on the conditions laid out in the document. A violation of these directives is legally punishable misconduct.
Your Health Status Needs to Be Confirmed
For the living will to come into force, you need to have one of the two statuses confirmed – either a state of permanent unconsciousness or a terminal illness. Both states need to be confirmed by two doctors – your regular physician and one unrelated visiting physician. If they both issue a similar verdict, your living will comes into force. Yet, in the case of terminal illness, you can still decide on your own while you remain conscious and physically able to sign documents.
You Can Change It
Once you compile and notarize a living will, the document becomes legally active, but it is not an irreversible act. People change, and their preferences for end-of-life care can change as well. If you have changed your mind and wish to alter the living will instructions, feel free to make those changes. After the new living will is notarized, the latest version thereof becomes legally valid, while the previous one is destroyed and annulled.
Keep in mind that you can change the living will as many times as you want; you’ll only need to pay a small fee of around $10-15 for its notarization, and that’s it. So, don’t postpone this vital decision for the vague future. An emergency can occur to you anytime, and having a notarized living will is always reassuring.
People of Any Age Need It
There is a false belief that the time for composing a living will comes at an advanced age. This misconception results in just a quarter of the U.S. population (based on the 2013 HealthStyles Survey) having a notarized advance directive (or living will).
But in fact, young people can also fall victim to sudden traumas or debilitating illnesses. It’s pessimistic and counter-productive to think about such things, but setting such accidents aside as impossible is short-sighted. Having a living will at a young age is a sure guarantee that your health preferences will be respected at any moment you might need care.
You Can Appoint Healthcare Agents
If you’re unclear about the whole spectrum of treatments and manipulations, unable to formulate a precise living will with instructions, it may be wise to appoint a healthcare agent in that document. This person cannot be your doctor, owner, or healthcare facility manager providing services to you.
It should be a person aged 18 years old and more, mentally and physically competent for representing your interests. This person will negotiate treatment options with the healthcare staff, choosing the most appropriate options according to your values and preferences. Notably, a healthcare agent’s appointment is possible not only for end-of-life care but also for situations of temporary incapacities, such as rehabilitation after a serious surgery or receiving critical care after an accident.
In all these situations, having a person protecting your interests is a reassuring perspective for everyone concerned about the standard and scope of care they might receive.
A Living Will Is About Many Options
Many people think of living wills simplistically, viewing them as an instruction for “pulling the plug” or terminating the life-sustaining support at a hospital. Yet, a living will is about many other things as well. You can stipulate the types of treatments and manipulations you don’t want to experience, trying to formulate the treatment plan and limitations for the staff and family members to adhere to. In this way, you can ensure that your healthcare values and preferences will be respected even after you’re unable to express them clearly.