Gayle Reeves' Blog

Living Wills

Gayle A. Reeves - Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Living Will is an expression of your desires with regard to life sustaining treatment. The Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare permits you to appoint someone to make these decisions if you are unable to make them for yourself.

These documents allow you to clearly state your wishes with regard to artificially or technologically prolonging your life, feeding tubes, fluid tubes, medication, organ donation, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and DNR (do not resuscitate) orders. If you have any specific instructions, these may also be included, such as: you want to be in your home at the end of your life; any religious or moral views about particular types of treatment; kidney dialysis even though you are in a coma; or no blood transfusions.

Communication with the person you appoint to make decisions for you is extremely important. You need to make sure that they are willing to follow your wishes with regard to decision making. Some important issues to discuss are what medical treatment you want, and don’t want; what comfort care means to you; where you want to be and who you want to be with you.

Knowing what to ask the health care providers is also very important. Some questions that should be asked are:

  • What is the main problem?
  • What is the proposed treatment?
  • What is the benefit of the treatment?
  • What are the risks of the treatment?
  • By having the treatments will my condition improve?
  • If I do not have the treatment, what is my life expectancy?

Only by being fully informed can you, or your healthcare agent, make decisions consistent with your end of life wishes.

A great deal of thought must go into the preparation of the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare to make sure that your true desires are followed at the end of your life. The more you can define your choices for your end of life care, and the more you communicate these desires in advance of a crisis, the easier it will be for your designated loved one to make those difficult decisions for you.