A “Living Will” (or Declaration) is a statement of your wishes regarding the use of life prolonging treatment if you are in a terminal condition. (A “Living Will” is different from a will, which disposes of your property after your death.) Generally, a “Living Will” is a statement that you desire to be allowed to die and not be kept alive by medical treatment when your doctors conclude that you are no longer able to decide matters for yourself and that your condition is terminal. If you would not want to be kept alive by use of a feeding tube or other artificial means of providing food and water, specifically states this.
If you are too sick to make decisions, close family members or a close friend usually will decide with the doctor and nurses what is best for you. And most of the time this works. However, sometimes everyone doesn’t agree about what to do, even if you have made a “Living Will”. One way to help ensure that your decisions will be honored is to name someone you trust who will make decisions for you. You may name the person in the “Living Will” (or Declaration), in which such person makes only those medical decisions related to serious illness that could cause death.
If you want to name someone you trust to make all other medical decisions for you when you are too sick to do so yourself, you may wish to put this in writing. Remember, if you want this person to also make decisions about the use of machines and medical treatment that might delay your death when you are hopelessly ill, name the same person in the “Living Will.”
It is advisable to name a replacement in case the person you have chosen to make decisions for you becomes unable or unwilling to do so.
If you decide to make a “Living Will” or other advanced directive, it is recommended that you give a copy to your doctor, your closest relative, or friend and any hospital, nursing home, or other facility where you are receiving treatment of care. If you change your mind, make sure that you so advise all of whom you have given copies.
A “Living Will” in no way affects life insurance. Also, it cannot be required as a condition for being insured for, or receiving, health care services. Any medical treatment that is used for the purpose of providing comfort care or to alleviate pain will be continued.
A summary like this cannot answer all of your questions or cover every circumstance. If you have any particular legal situation, please seek legal advice. Talk to your healthcare provider about the medical issues. Remember, to let those who care for you know what you have decided.