Living Wills for Medical Decisions

If something were ever to happen to you; for example, if you were seriously injured in an auto accident, or if you were on your death bed due to a disease such as cancer, wouldn't you want to have a say in what types of life-sustaining procedures you would receive?

Living wills ensure that if such a day comes, that you have a voice in the matter. However, since you wouldn't be physically capable to express your wishes at such a time, a living will does that for you.

A living will (not to be confused with a last will and testament), is created at a time when you are healthy. With this legal document, you are in writing, stating your preferences for life-sustaining medical care should you be unable to make these decisions for yourself.

Which treatments would you want to receive?

This is a very personal question, and each person has their own preferences on the matter. If you are near death, a living will spells out which medical treatments you want to receive, and which ones you don't want. It also addresses pain management and organ donation.

Your living will should specify your preferences regarding:

  • Whether you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • If you want mechanical ventilation, and for how long.
  • If you want tube feeding.
  • If you want to receive dialysis.
  • If you want antibiotics or antiviral medications, or if you'd rather let an infection or virus run its course?
  • If you want palliative care (comfort care).
  • Whether you want to donate your organs.
  • Whether you wish to donate your body for scientific research.

When determining your wishes, think about whether you would want life-sustaining procedures in the event of a coma, or near-death state. The above treatments prolong the dying process, so it's important to consider what type of scenario you're comfortable with.

You should talk to your primary care doctor and family and friends, and discuss drafting a living will with a probate attorney.