An advance directive or “living will” is a legal document that can give instructions about what kind of medical care you want, if you become seriously ill and are at the end of your life. The answer to the question of who needs a living will is quite simple: every adult. And with the start of a New Year, this is a great time to get one done.
You can state the types of medical treatments you do and do not want to receive and can designate an agent who will make certain that your health care decisions are carried out.
US News and World Report’s recent article entitled “With COVID-19, It’s Time to Talk End-of-Life Care” says that as the pandemic continues to devastate the U.S. and patients are filling up hospitals, you might not believe you need an advance directive because you’re young and healthy.
However, as we have all seen by now, the coronavirus can attack people of any age or background. Those people at higher risk of becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19 include the elderly and those with chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes. However, COVID-19 has also taken the lives or seriously sickened younger people, even athletes.
The decisions that can be made in a living will as to end-of-life care include whether a person wants everything possible done to keep their vital organs working, such as placing them on a ventilator to support breathing or starting dialysis for failing kidneys.
Moreover, there are decisions to make if the heart stops beating due to cardiac arrest, and if a person wants to have CPR or defibrillation performed on them. These are called “heroic measures.
Sometimes one who needs a living will also has a signed “Do Not Resuscitate” or “DNR” order in place, so they don’t receive such heroic measures. Many ask only for palliative care, so their lives end in comfort without suffering or pain.
These types of decisions should be made after open and frank conversations with family.
However, you can always modify an advance directive document.
Since the answer to who needs a living will is, indeed, “everyone adult,” you should speak with an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney to draft the correct advance directive forms for your state. Note that in some states, the living will and health care proxy forms are combined into one document, but in others, the forms are separate.
Once the advance directive or living will is completed and signed (or notarized, depending on your state’s requirements), it’s legally binding. However, remember that you can always legally revoke or amend them.
Reference: US News and World Report (Jan. 5, 2021) “With COVID-19, It’s Time to Talk End-of-Life Care”