Living wills provide people the means to dictate how the medical world approaches their life, whether it is in crisis or not. Without directives from a living will, healthcare professionals have a default procedure to fall back on that may not fit with a person’s wishes.
This type of agency people have over their preferences may sound like something everyone already has, but according to the American Association of Retired Persons, less than 40% of people have a living will.
Medical directives during life
People may think a living will only applies to catastrophic situations like when a person becomes comatose. As the Mayo Clinic details, there are a number of end-of-life care decisions for people to consider.
Some include assistance when a body’s systems fail. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation and tube feeding are all examples of the medical system making up for physical failures. A person may or may not want these and a living will helps medical professionals know how to approach his or her unique situation.
Do not resuscitate or intubate orders do not require a living will.
Medical directives after life
People may also choose how the healthcare system deals with their body after dying. Organ and tissue donation may help others and establishing that preference in a living will informs medical professionals to employ life-sustaining treatments while organ donation occurs.
Finally, people may state their preference of whether the hospital should prepare and donate their body for scientific study rather than a burial.
Advanced directives are best when they are clear and organized. Having multiple copies worded in a way that is understandable and legally binding may help ensure whatever preferences a person may have.