Living Wills For Health Care
The possibility of becoming terminally ill or debilitated is not something that is easy to ingest. A lot of people simply choose to brush it off as an improbable event. However, this risk shouldn’t be considered as a matter that is worth ignoring.
You should be prepared in such circumstances as early as possible. One of the valuable ways you could do that is through living wills for health care.
Living wills are legal documents that contain a person’s specific wishes with regard to health care. These legally binding papers take effect in the event of severe illness and incapacity to convey preferences and make decisions about medical treatment and other life-sustaining measures.
The Triggering Circumstances
There are basically two broad situations in which advance directives in a living will may be valid: terminal illness, and permanent disability.
A terminal illness is a condition wherein death is anticipated within a fairly short span of time. More often than not, people dislike the idea of medical treatment for the sole purpose of sustaining life without restoring its quality.
While some families would deem this as acceptable, others simply consider it as prolonging the pain and suffering. Most living wills for health care deal with this kind of situation. Also, a lot of doctors would unhesitatingly respect the desires conveyed in the living will with regard to terminal care.
If you happen to be the type of person who prefers a shorter yet more comfortable life in the face of a terminal illness, you can certainly demand for it in your living will. So in case you become incapacitated and unable to communicate, your attending physicians and your family will no longer assume what you would have wanted since you’ve already outlined it for them.
Regrettably, some living wills fall short in addressing another main concern – permanent disability. It is a lot more difficult to arrive at any consensus as regards to this condition for two primary reasons.
First, the attending physicians and the health team may attempt to put in their own sets of values to a patient’s care. While they may have the same opinion about withholding measures to sustain life in the case of a terminal illness, they may strongly contest the same action in patients with permanent disability.
The second reason is the existence of a wide assortment of chronic impairments. Because of this, people usually argue as regards to what constitutes an unbearable condition.
For instance, some may be terrified of a stroke that could result in the inability to communicate, while others may be scared of impaired mental capacity or permanent dependence. Simply said, the circumstances that could activate the application of a living will to permanent disability may vary on a case-to-case basis.
Needless to say, you – as the creator the living will – must determine the triggering circumstances. These conditions should be defined as explicitly as possible with reference to three main factors: type, severity, and irreversibility or permanence.
Terms like “impaired communication” or “loss of dignity” should be avoided since they may have different interpretations to different people.
Living wills for health care can indeed save the patient and his/her family a great deal of pain. They somehow offer answers that are often too difficult to decide on.
Aside from that, these legal documents provide a guarantee that the patient’s wishes are implemented in the event of such painful and upsetting circumstances.
About the Author
As Senior.com Director of Sales and Marketing, Kimberly Johnson is passionate about providing Seniors with the resources and products to live well. Kimberly is a seasoned caregiver to her family and breast cancer survivor. Her father battled ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease and she was a primary caregiver. Today Kimberly lives in Southern California near her 104-year-old grandmother, widowed mother, a mentally disabled sister and second sister who is also a breast cancer survivor. She is happily married to her husband of 24 years and they have 3 children.View All Articles