A living will is an essential part of your estate plan, as it allows you to maintain control over your medical decisions. If you sustain a serious injury or become very ill and cannot communicate your wishes about your medical care, decisions will need to be made about whether you should receive various types of life-saving medical assistance. If you have created a living will, you provide information in advance about when you want care and what types of care you wish to receive. This allows you to determine your treatment even when you cannot speak and it ensures that your loved ones do not have to make painful decisions.
A living will needs to be comprehensive enough to address the common types of emergency medical care that could be administered in a situation where you cannot speak for yourself. The more detailed your living will is, the fewer situations where arise where your wishes are unclear. A Cincinnati estate planning lawyer at Zimmer Law Firm can help you to create a comprehensive living will that covers the situations you need it to.
What Should You Include In Your Living Will?
Your living will is going to apply when a doctor decides if you should receive life-sustaining measures when you cannot communicate your wishes. It needs to address the most common types of life-saving measures, which Mayo Clinic suggests may include:
- Resuscitation: Specify when you want CPR to be used or an electric shock to be used to stimulate the heart and re-start it when it has stopped beating.
- Mechanical ventilation: Do you want a machine to breath for you if you cannot breathe on your own? Specify for how long.
- Tube feeding: Do you want nutrients and fluids supplied intravenously to your body via a tube if you cannot eat on your own? Specify whether you want tube feeding and for how long.
- Dialysis: Specify whether you want a machine to remove waste from the blood and manage fluid levels if your kidneys stop functioning. Include details on how long you want dialysis.
- Infection treatment: Do you want antibiotics to treat infections if you are nearing the end of your life, or would you prefer to let an infection run its course and potentially lead to a quicker death?
- Palliative care: What types of treatment do you want administered to manage your pain? Would you prefer more invasive treatment or would you prefer to be kept comfortable and die at home?
- Donations: Do you want to donate your body to science, or donate tissue or organs?
Many people also include a do not resuscitate and/or a do not intubate order in their living will. If you have such an order, you should make sure you alert your doctors to the fact that you are not interested in having these life-saving emergency medical treatments administered.
Creating a Comprehensive Living Will
It is very important to ensure your living will is very comprehensive and detailed, especially if you have specific ideas about the kinds of medical treatment you want to receive. There have been many difficult cases, including the famous case of Terri Schiavo, in which family members have disagreed on the type of medical care someone should receive when he or she is incapacitated. You do not want disputes to arise among your relatives about your case, nor do you want to be kept alive using artificial means if this is not something you would be comfortable with.
The creation of a detailed living will allows you to balance quality of life versus the potential for health improvements. It is up to you how long you want to get emergency medical treatment to keep you alive, and when you would prefer to pass away rather than be subject to more treatment with little hope of recovery. In the moment, when these difficult decisions need to be made, you may not be able to speak up for yourself. Create a living will before an emergency medical situation arises so you are prepared.
No matter how comprehensive your living will is, however, there may be some limited situations that arise which aren’t addressed in the living will. You should also create a healthcare power of attorney and name someone to make decisions for you so all of your bases are covered and so you can choose someone you can trust.
A Cincinnati estate planning lawyer at Zimmer Law Firm will help you with the creation of a living will and with the creation of a healthcare power of attorney. Give us a call at 513.721.1513. You can also join us for a free seminar to learn more.