One side wants to stop medical treatment, potentially ending their life. The other side wants to keep them alive, no matter what. And meanwhile, the costs of medical treatment keep climbing, bills that the family will have to pay.
These kinds of painful dilemmas can be solved with a simple legal document: a living will.
A living will, formally known as a medical directive, directs doctors to administer, withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments in the event of a terminal or irreversible condition. Without a signed directive, that responsibility falls to your family or court-appointed guardian.
A living will often covers these medical treatments and issues:
- Resuscitation, like CPR or electric shock to the heart.
- Mechanical ventilation, like a machine that breathes for you if you are unable to on your own
- Tube feeding, if you were unable to eat
- Dialysis, for if your kidneys are not functioning
- Using medicines like antibiotics or antivirals
- Comfort care, like pain medication or hospice
- Organ and tissue donations
- Donating your body to science.
Even reading about these conditions and circumstances can cause stress and painful thoughts. A living will means your family isn’t forced to make impossible decisions on your behalf when they’re already in emotional distress. And you know your wishes will be honored, even when you’re not capable of communicating them.
When doing your estate planning, it’s important to have a living will created. If you’re unsure about what to include, your lawyer can help guide you through the process. It can be helpful to think about some of these issues before meeting with your lawyer as well. For more information on making decisions for your living will, as well as how to talk to your family about it, we recommend the American Bar Association’s Consumer Tool Kit for Health Advance Planning. This free tool can help you think through your own thoughts and beliefs about what you want for your own medical care.
If you need to have a living will drawn up, as well as other estate planning documents, consider joining a legal plan like Texas Legal. The cost of your monthly premiums will likely be less than an hour of time with a good lawyer.
However you go about your estate planning, make sure you make a living will a part of the process. It’s something you hope you’ll never need, but it provides great peace of mind to know that it’s there, helping protect your family’s future.