A Living Will, also known as Healthcare Declaration or Advanced Directive, contains a set of specific care instructions, pre-established by competent individuals, to help hospital physicians and emergency-care responders honor patients' medical demands in case of incapacitation. These legal documents may also appoint someone to make important health care decisions on your behalf in case you are unable to do so.

Why Have a Living Will - Your Legal Document for Emergency Medical Wishes

You have the right to make advance decisions as to whether or not you would like to decline life support when it becomes clear that death is imminent or a state of coma becomes permanent. With technology today your body can be kept alive for years even if the brain is no longer functioning or you are in constant pain. It does not matter if you are a young adult or in the last stage of your life, you should draft this document.

What Emergency Medical Demands Does a Living Will Cover?

Many people believe that living wills only direct health care providers to withhold treatment. While you may choose to issue this type of instruction, a living will also allows you to ask for all available treatment options and medical techniques, or to choose some medical options and reject others. You may also document your desire to become an organ donor. A living will can not legally take effect until you are medically determined to be in a permanent vegetative state or terminally ill, and therefore unable to communicate medical preferences.

A durable power of attorney is a different legal document you may choose. This is used whenever the individual granting the power cannot make his or her own health care decisions; it does not depend on terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness to become effective.

A living will or durable power of attorney eliminates the need for family members guess about, or arguing over, what treatments should or should not be provided while they are dealing with your illness or accident. Healthcare providers will only consult family members on health care decisions so if you prefer that a friend or unmarried partner participate in your health care decisions, a living will and durable power of attorney enable that person to have a say.

What Emergency Medical Demands To Include in A Living Will

This document should state the following:
-Treatment you would be happy to have, and in what circumstances.
-Treatment you would want, no matter how ill you are.
-Treatment you would prefer not to have, and in what circumstances.
-State that you would prefer not to receive certain current treatments but would allow for new treatments. (Take into consideration that new drugs and/or treatments may be introduced in the future.)
-A specific refusal of treatment.
-Someone you would like to be consulted about your treatment at the time a decision needs to be made.
-Someone who can legally make healthcare decisions when you are unable to. This person will be designated as your power of attorney.
-State that you understand what you are doing and are capable of making such decisions.

Include your name, address, date and signature and have your document signed by a witness who can say that you had capacity at the time. Have the document notarized.

Who Needs To Know About Your Living Will?

It's important that your living will is entered into your medical notes so that in an emergency it is found and acted upon. Give a copy to:
-your doctor,
-any hospital which is treating you,
-your nearest relative/s, and
-your Lawyer

No one likes to think about death and dying, but they are inescapable realities of life. A Living Will allows you to document your wishes so you can take control of choices regarding your medical future.

Your living will is stored by lawyers and family physicians, who are available only during regular business hours, so the living will becomes useless in the event of an after-hours incident. If you are not with the family member who has your document it may be impossible for the 'first responders' to determine if CPR should be administered. An additional option is to store your medical directives with the U.S. Living Will Registry to allow this information to be available to medical providers when needed. The link is in the resources.