If you are involved in a serious accident or suffer a catastrophic medical crisis where you cannot convey your treatment wishes, doctors will perform life sustaining procedures – even those you may not want. If you have a Living Will, however, your choices would be known to healthcare providers who would follow your directives. A Gentreo Health Care Proxy contains questions that are usually addressed in a Living Will, so if you choose to complete those questions, it is like having a Living Will included in your Health Care Proxy.
A Living Will clearly makes your wishes about health care treatment known to your family and doctors. It is a legally binding document – part of an estate plan – that expresses your preferences for how you want to be cared for should you be incapacitated, unconscious, or terminally ill and cannot speak for yourself.
How to Set Up a Living Will
Your medical treatment decisions should be based on your lifestyle, family circumstances, values, and independence. Some people want doctors to perform any measures necessary to keep them alive, regardless of their condition. Others do not want extreme procedures if there is no hope for recovery. Keep in mind, it is your life and your choices. Before completing your Health Care Proxy and responding to the questions about end of life care, take the time to:
- Talk with Your Doctor – If you have a pre-existing condition, you may have questions about certain treatments. Consult with your doctor to see what options are available relative to procedures and care.
- Confer with Family – Have a serious discussion with your spouse and family about your choices. There may be differences of opinions when it comes to pursuing all treatment and long-term care options, and you may want to consider them.
- Make Your Decisions – Decide what medical treatments you would want provided or withheld in a health crisis. Would you want to be put on a ventilator? Do you want to be resuscitated? What about having surgery or a feeding tube?
- Choose a Health Care Proxy – Appoint a trusted person who will communicate your health care wishes when you are unable to make your own decisions.
Writing a Living Will
Now that you have had discussions with your doctor and family and decided your choices, it’s time to answer the questions about end of life care in your Gentreo Health Care Proxy. Clearly state your directives so there is no question as to what you want. This document will then act like a Living Will.
- Treatment Choices – Be specific about procedure and care options. List various illnesses and conditions and what treatment you would want and not want for each.
- Pain Management – Define preferences for palliative care and what measures should be taken to make you comfortable.
- End-of-Life Care – Explain whether you want treatments to prolong your life, and how you want to be cared for as you near death.
- Life Support – If you are in an irreversible condition such as a vegetative state, spell out your preferences for life sustaining procedures.
- Donate Organs – State whether you want to donate certain organs for transplant or research.
Once you completed and signed the document, a copy should be left with your doctor and the original stored in a secure digital location, such as the Gentreo Digital Family Vault, where selected family members can have 24/7 access.
Updating Your Health Care Proxy / Living Will
As your life changes, so should your Health Care Proxy/Living Will. Suppose you were diagnosed with an illness or there has been a change in family dynamics; the document should be reviewed periodically and amended as needed.
Durable Power of Attorney vs. Living Will
A Durable Power of Attorney is a person you appoint to act on your behalf to manage your finances while you are alive. A Living Will lists your medical treatment wishes.
A Living Will is not to be confused with a Last Will and Testament. The latter spells out your instructions as to how your estate is to be distributed to heirs upon your passing. A Living Will deals with your health care choices during your lifetime.
Some States Do Not Recognize a Living Will
Massachusetts is an example of a state that does not accept a Living Will as a legal document. In this case, a Health Care Proxy document must be drafted where you would appoint a person to communicate your medical treatment choices to healthcare providers if you are debilitated. You could also include your medical treatment directives in this document.
Don’t let the courts decide your fate. Give your family peace of mind in the time of a crisis. Get the power to voice your medical care wishes by creating a Gentreo Health Care Proxy, which includes issues addressed in a Living Will.