What is a Living Will?

A Living Will, also known as an advance healthcare directive, gives your instructions specifying what kinds of medical actions are to be taken in the event you are not able to make decisions or communicate due to illness or incapacity. A Living Will informs your doctors and caregivers of your end-of-life medical wishes. It states your wishes about medical treatment that would delay death from a terminal condition and situations involving persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma. Your Living Will speaks for you if you are unable to communicate.

What is the Difference Between a Will and a Living Will?

A Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament is a legal document in which you name the people who should inherit your property after your death.  A Will also serves the function of appointing a guardian for the care of minor children and may also appoint a conservator to manage the minor children's assets.  A Will also names a Personal Representative who will manage your estate after your death.  As discussed above, a Living Will, sometimes called a “do not resuscitate” or “DNR” describes your end-of-life medical wishes and whether you want aggressive medical treatment in certain situations.

Why Do I Need A Living Will?

Living Wills were created in response to advancements in medical technology. Despite such advancements in medical technology, many people do not want to be kept alive artificially. Aggressive medical intervention has resulted in almost two million Americans being confined in nursing homes. In addition, over 1.4 million Americans are so weak and frail that they are only able to survive by using feeding tubes. Countless others are kept alive in a persistent vegetative, comatose state.

The cost of aggressive medical intervention is significant. A national study published in the Journal of American Medicine found that in 20% of cases, a family member had to make a major life change, like quitting their job, to care for the patient. In 31% of cases, the family lost all or most of its savings, despite 96% having insurance. In addition, in 20% of cases, the family reported losing its major source of income.

It is no surprise that 70-95% of people would refuse aggressive medical treatment rather than have their lives artificially prolonged in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma. A living will can speak these wishes for you, even when you are unable to communicate them yourself.

Terri Schaivo’s Nightmare – Could Have Been Avoided With A Living Will

If you are one of the vast majority of Americans who would rather refuse aggressive medical treatment than to be artificially kept alive in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma, do not delay in making a Living Will. The Terri Schiavo case illustrates the terrible consequences of failing to make a Living Will.

Terri Schiavo suffered a heart attack on February 25, 1990 at the age of 26. As a result of the heart attack, oxygen could not reach Terri's brain causing her to enter into a vegetative state. The doctors kept Terri alive for several years through the use of a feeding tube. Terri received different forms of medical treatment, but the doctors could not repair the damage done to her brain. Terri's husband, Michael, decided to remove Terri's feeding tube. If doctors honored Michael's wishes and removed the feeding tube, Terri would die. Terri's parents strongly opposed Michael in his attempt to remove the feeding tube. Her parents argued that Terri believed in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and strongly opposed assisted suicide. The two parties took their dispute to court leaving a judge to decide Terri's fate. After years of very public court battles, Michael ultimately prevailed over Terri's parents and doctors removed Terri's feeding tube causing her to die.

Terri and her family could have avoided this situation by making a Living Will. No one will ever know what Terri’s own wishes were. Instead, Terri’s fate was dictated by a judge who didn’t even know her. Would you want a judge to decide your fate over the fighting of your loved ones while expending vast sums of money on attorney's fees, just to enable a judge to make the decision?

What A KEYTLaw Living Will Can Do For You

Nobody wants to see a repeat of Terri Schiavo’s heartbreaking situation. No one wants to force a family member to have to make the decision to “pull the plug”. End-of-life decisions are just about the most personal decisions anybody can make. With a KEYTLaw Living Will you can be assured that YOU will make those most personal decisions. When your wishes are expressly stated in a living will, you will save your loved ones from having to make the heart wrenching decision whether or not to pursue aggressive medical treatment. Although you may be unable to communicate your wishes yourself, your living will can communicate for you and ensure that YOU make the critical decisions about YOUR life.