If you are injured in an accident or you suffer from a potentially terminal illness, you may be thinking about how you would be able to transmit your wishes about your health care should you become incapacitated. You can put your desires in a legally binding document called a living will. This document, shared with your physician, will help you dictate whether you’ll receive certain treatments and which ones you absolutely forbid a doctor to perform.
Considerations for Your Living Will
When creating a living will, you’ll have several things to consider before creating the document with the help of an attorney. You will want to talk with your family, your lawyer, your doctor or an important religious figure in your life. You want to consider your attitude towards living as well as dying. You’ll also want to think about how the treatments will impact your family and how ready they are to let go – should it come to that.
Know What You’re Refusing
A living will that meets your needs and life philosophy requires a little familiarity with the medical jargon used to describe situations or procedures that a doctor may want to perform when you’re incapacitated. You may feel okay with a doctor performing some of them and you may not want others.
Resuscitation – restarts your heart when it has stopped. It can be either Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) or the electric shock. A medical professional may use these after an event like an auto accident, so you may want to allow this one.
Mechanical Ventilation – a device takes over your breathing when you can’t do it for yourself.
Tube Feeding – provides nutrition the body needs if you are incapacitated. Not only can you issue an order preventing a doctor from initiating this treatment, you can determine the length of time to allow it to continue once it has started.
Dialysis – does what your kidneys cannot do if you are incapacitated, remove waste from bodily fluids. Like tube feeding, it can be time regulated.
Antibiotic or Antiviral treatments – if you are incapacitated and contract a disease, a doctor may prescribe aggressive (and possibly expensive) medications to stop the spread of the infection.
You can approve or disapprove any kind of treatment in your will. You have an absolute right to control your medical care. Only in extreme circumstances can anyone force an invasive treatment on you.
As we all know, medical treatments, even with “blue blood” insurance, can be expensive. Unfortunately, that cost would be one of the burdens you’d be placing on your family for some types of medical care should you become seriously ill. You should take the costs into account when making a decision on what types of care you would allow in your will.
The other burden you could place on your family is an emotional one. They may be desperate to see you recover from your illness or injury. Yet, as time wears on, they may be suffering unnecessarily. You may have young children that you have hopes of seeing grow older, and you may not quite understand the circumstances they are in when you are incapacitated for a length of time. Limiting the length of time under which you are subject to some treatments may be a good compromise between the two extremes; you give them hope but limit their angst.
Decisions That Affect You
Those issues focus on others. You also have to think about yourself. What kind of lifestyle do you enjoy now? How would you feel knowing that you are bed-ridden and dependent on machines and a team of medical professionals to keep living? Do you want to attempt to extend your life at any cost?
You can get very specific in dictating your treatment. You can make your demands situational. You can specify how you will be treated in case of an accident versus how you will be treated if you have suffered a currently incurable disease.
Talk to an Attorney About a Living Will
Discussing end-of-life issues are among the most difficult topics we can broach with each other, let alone with an attorney. Good lawyers are aware of this and will treat topics like a living will with the appropriate sensitivity and compassion. At the France Law Firm, we will give you peace of mind as we help you navigate the legal issues associated with medical care so that you can plan for your family’s future.