Medical decisions are extremely personal. What one person would decide to do to save their life may seem deeply wrong to another. Just like every person is unique, your medical decisions are specific to you and deserve to be honored. As part of National Patient Safety Week, we want to make sure your preferences about medical decisions are documented and followed.
Although we can’t control the future, and certainly none of us would like to be in a situation where we can’t control our own medical decisions. But it’s essential to have a document on file to prepare for it: a Living Will, also called advanced directive. As a Texas Legal member, your Living Will is free as part of your estate planning benefit, so there’s no reason not to have a Living Will. Of course, we hope you never need it, but having one on file is important. A Living Will will give you the peace of mind that your medical wishes will be honored and your family is spared unnecessary stress and pain.
In the past 5 years, 42 percent of Americans have had a loved one experience a terminal illness or coma. But less than a third of us have this essential document in place. Here’s why you should get one as soon as possible.
What Is 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.
How Can I Get A Living Will?
A Living Will is covered under every single Texas Legal plan as part of the estate planning benefit, which includes a will or a trust and legal powers of attorney. One of our qualified network attorneys can help guide you through the process of creating a Living Will .
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 medical care.
What If I Already Have a Living Will?
Great! We’re so glad you’ve created this important document so your health care decisions can be honored. But don’t forget some other essential steps to make sure your Living Will can be used as it’s designed to be:
- Distribute Copies: Of the small percentage of clients who choose to create living wills, barely half of them distribute copies of their living will to physicians and family members. A living will won’t do you any good if it’s locked away in a desk or safe deposit box. . Be sure to make several copies of your living will document and give them out to the pertinent parties.
- Update it Regularly: Your medical wishes are likely to change with age. Medical care you once thought you’d want might not reflect your current opinions. If you created your living will when you were young and completely healthy, your wishes might change drastically if you become ill. Update your living will regularly to make sure it is in line with your current state of mind. With your Texas Legal plan, you are able to update your estate planning documents once a year.
- Inform Your Family: If your family is not informed about your medical wishes, they may try to override what you really want. They may mean well and believe they are doing what you’d truly desire, but it’s much better to have everyone on the same page so that your medical care is reflective of what you — and only you — want. Everyone involved in your care should support your wishes.