Last year, living wills got a lot of attention (because of the Terry Schiavo case). Many people quickly went out and got one. But now we aren’t hearing as much about living wills and those who didn’t get them, may want to rethink that decision.
First, lets look at why people need to think about the future of their healthcare and their choices. Life happens. We do not know what is store for us. Are there decisions you know you are against if you are really ill? How do you feel about support measures? Do you want your next of kin to have to make all the decisions or do you want some of the power now?
If you want to be able to make some of those possible decisions now, you need to start thinking about getting an advance directive? What is this? An advance directive is a fancy name for a written document that is written before a serious illness occurs, that informs other people of your choices for your health care. You can even name a person to make decisions for you when you are too ill to do it for yourself in an advance directive. There are two kinds of advance directives. One is the common one the Living will and the other is called a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
The living will is the most popular form of an advance directive. It is a document that tells others the type of medical care you want when you are too ill to make decisions. This document is drawn up by a lawyer and is signed, dated and witnessed by two people not related to you.
The living will states how much life support measures you want used to lengthen your life. It only takes effect if you are in a coma, that is not expected to end or if you are beyond medical help with no help of getting better and can’t make your wishes known or are expected to die and can not make your wishes known. The doctors taking care of you must do what your living will states. You, on the other hand, may cancel or revised your living will anytime you wish.
There are two major aspects of health care you should consider. One of these aspects is your wishes when it comes to artificially supplied food and water. Artificially supplied food and water means you are fed and get your water by way of tubes placed inside of you. From past cases, you may remember that this can be a serious problem. What are your views on this? Do you want your doctors to take this action? Do you want someone else to make this decision? Do you want it to be used for a certain period of time and then stopped if no improvement is made? These are questions you need to think about before your write up your living will.
The other issue is Resuscitation? Is it okay by you for the doctors to try to resuscitate you by means of CPR if you stop breathing? This, too, can be addressed in a living will.
The durable power of attorney does not address certain issues of healthcare. What it does is allow you to choose another person to make health care decisions for you, should you not be able to make these decisions yourself. This person has to be an adult. It can be your next of kin, another family member or trusted friend. You should, of course, let this person be aware of the fact that you wish to name him/her your durable power of attorney and make sure he/she is okay with this and knows what this entails.
The durable power of attorney does not take effect, unless you are not able to make health care decisions.
Should you get both a durable power of attorney and a living will? It wouldn’t hurt? Both documents address different issues. If you don’t have a lot of issues that you want to put in your living will, then your durable power of attorney will allow the person you name to make the rest of the decisions for you. This can be good thing, because right now you don’t know what the future will hold.
Another nice thing about the durable power of attorney is that the person you name can handle any problems that may occur with your insurance company on your behalf. This person can make sure the insurance company is making the payments they should. Then if you should recover (and hopefully you will), this will be one less thing to worry you.
Should we prepare for the future and the what ifs? Of course, we should. We should prepare and then not dwell on what may never happen.