Although no one enjoys thinking about what would happen if they became too ill or injured to make decisions about their medical care, it is important to recognize that there is always a possibility this may happen and to take steps to ensure your wishes will be carried out in these situations. Discussing your stance on specific treatments with your family is important, but it is essential to put your wishes in writing in an official document known as a living will.
What Is A Living Will?
A living will is not like the wills used to pass your assets onto your family members and other parties after you die. Instead, it is a document that indicates to your doctors and family members what medical treatments you would be willing to undergo and which you want to avoid if you are unable to voice your own wishes. In particular, it addresses interventions you would want to be used to keep you alive, along with your preferences for organ donation, pain management and other procedures.
In addition to giving you peace of mind that your wishes will be followed, this also takes the burden off of your family in the event of an emergency. It means they will not have to guess what you would have wanted or feel badly about any decisions they make on your behalf about your care.
Myths About A Living Will
When you are researching the components of a living will, you might come across some common myths about the document. Below are some of the most persistent myths about living wills and why they are inaccurate.
Living Will Rules Are The Same In Every State
Each state has its own rules governing living wills, which may also be known as health care directives in some states. It is important to follow the requirements regarding the creation and execution of a living will from the state in which you live.
However, if you spend a lot of time in multiple states – for example, if you spend time in a summer home in a different state – it is important to confirm that your living will is valid in both states. Most states will accept a living will from another state as long as the document is considered valid in the state where it was created. However, this is not the case with every state.
A Living Will Is Not A Legal Document
A living will must be a legal document in order to be enforceable. It is not enough to simply tell another person what you want verbally or in writing. Instead, your wishes must be outlined in a way that complies with your state’s laws, including what you would like to happen if you become terminally ill or unable to convey your wishes in any way.
It Does Not Take A Doctor To Determine If You Are Permanently Unconscious
Being permanently unconscious is a true medical state and must be agreed upon by more than one medical professional. First, a doctor must make the determination that an individual is permanently unconscious or terminally ill. Then, a second doctor must agree with that determination. If a person is conscious and capable of making decisions, their living will cannot be put into effect.
A Living Will Cannot Be Changed
Some people believe that a living will cannot be changed, but the truth is that you are free to change your mind. You can modify an existing living will or cancel it as long as you are conscious, but you must use the proper legal channels to do so. Destroying your personal copy is not enough as the legal document may be attached to other files or estate planning documents. It is important to formally change it or fully revoke it as needed; no one else is allowed to change your living will for you without your permission.
You Can Only Have A Living Will If You Are Over 65
Although a living will may be thought of as something that only older people need, adults of all ages can benefit from having this legal document in place. Even the healthiest young adults may become unexpectedly ill or injured, whether it is a traffic accident, a sport incident or another emergency, and it never hurts to have your preferences on record in advance. This can also give the people who care for you peace of mind because they will not have to make difficult decisions about your care.
Talk With Harbor Light Hospice
If you would like to give yourself the peace of mind that comes with a living will or you are encouraging a loved one to create one to protect their own wishes, get in touch with Harbor Light Hospice for guidance.