There are many provisions and preferences that you can put into your living will. Some of them relate to the treatment you do or do not want. You may request that your health care providers:
- administer life-sustaining treatment
- withhold life-sustaining treatment, or
- withdraw life-sustaining treatment
when you have a terminal illness, an end-stage condition, or are in a persistent unconscious state. You have a federal constitutional right to refuse medical treatment, even if that refusal is likely to lead to death.
You may also want different instructions for different situations. For example, you may have different preferences for the last stages of a terminal illness versus a state of unconsciousness from which you are not expected to recover.
Specific Types of Treatment to Consider
The instructions in your living will are ones you are going to want to give careful thought. There are several types of treatment to choose from, including:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If your heart stops beating, do you want health care professionals to administer CPR, drugs, and electrical shock with a defibrillator to attempt to restart it?
- Intubation and ventilation. If you are unable to breathe on your own, do you want to have a tube inserted in your windpipe that is connected to a machine that will help you breathe?
- Feeding and hydration. If you are unable to eat or drink, do you want to be fed and hydrated with an IV or feeding tube?
- Dialysis. If your kidneys fail, do you want to be connected to a machine to remove toxins from your body?
- Antibiotics/antivirals. If you have an infection, do you want it treated with medications, or allow it to go untreated even if that may hasten death?
- Surgery. If surgery becomes necessary to prolong your life, do you want to undergo it or let nature take its course?
- Palliative care. Instead of aggressive life-prolonging care, would you prefer to receive only medications and other treatments to keep you pain-free and comfortable?
Before you make your decisions and put them in your living will, however, you should discuss them with your doctor. He or she can explain the risks, benefits, and consequences of these treatments so you can make a more informed decision. This also gives your doctor the opportunity to express reservations about following your wishes.
Your religious faith may also dictates certain terms regarding end-of-life decisions. A living will may also indicate your:
- Desire to become an organ or tissue donor.
- Religious preferences.
- Burial and final disposition wishes (e.g., cremation or burial).
So What Should I Do?
I recommend that everyone have an estate plan that includes a living will. If you want more information about estate plans and things you need to think about to prepare them, then I recommend that you download my free book, A Guide to Creating Your Estate Plan. It will get you a long way towards achieving that goal.
But if you live in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland counties, have decided that you need to put together an estate plan, and are ready to move forward to create one, then just click here to schedule a free, no obligation phone call to discuss it.
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