What is a Living Will?
A Living Will states your wishes about the use of artificial life supports to keep you alive a few days longer but only when you are terminally ill with no chance of survival.
The Living Will needs to follow the law of the state in which you resolve. If your Living Will does not follow both the law and the format in which medical professionals expect to see a Living Will, medical providers may feel uncomfortable using the Living Will as they will not know if it is legal. The medical professionals may send your Living Will out for a legal opinion – which opinion is often received too late to be of use.
Why do I need a Living Will?
You can always change your mind, but having the Living Will eases the burden and pangs of guilt your family may experience if you have not made the decisions in advance and in writing. Without a Living Will, some family members might want to keep you alive on life support for a few days or weeks longer and others might not. Without a Living Will, one child might resent a sibling if the sibling made the decision not to keep you artificially alive, even though there was no hope of survival, much less recovery. A Living Will expressing your own desires removes that potential problem.
A Living Will is different from a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR). A Living Will has no effect until you reach a hospital. The EMS workers’ job is to keep you alive for the few minutes it takes to transport you to the hospital. At the hospital, physicians may still be able to deal with your medical issues, an option that might be impossible if you had a DNR. A DNR is appropriate for someone who is known to be facing imminent death, such as from terminal cancer, and would apply to EMS workers as well as hospital personnel.