A living will speaks for you when you are unable to speak for yourself. Also known as a healthcare directive, a living will is a document that describes your end-of-life preferences or desired care if you become permanently unconscious. This document gives healthcare professionals guidance as to what your wishes are regarding medical treatment in the event of a serious accident or illness. Although having a living will is not required by law, it is a helpful tool.
A Personal Choice
A living will is an advance directive that explains you preferred medical and life-sustaining options, if any, such as a feeding tube, artificial respiration and ventilation, and resuscitation. Living wills are consulted when you are in a medical condition, such as a coma, that prevents you from communicating these preferences on your own. Although no one is legally required to have a living will, it can be an effective tool to ensure that your wishes are honored. If you do not have a living will or other similar directive, serious medical decisions will be left in the hands of others, such as relatives, who may not know your wishes or who may not feel comfortable making such decisions for you.
Health Care POAs
You also may consider creating a health care power of attorney as a complement to your living will, because the living will is unlikely to cover every possible scenario. A health care POA designates another person, your agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf when you're unable to. With a POA, your agent can step in when circumstances arise that are not discussed or adequately addressed in your living will.