Living Wills Keep End Of Life Care Burdens Off Of Your Family

Living Wills Keep End-of-Life Care Burdens Off of Your Family

After the extensive media coverage of the Terri Shiavo case in 2005, living wills experienced a surge in popularity. Despite becoming more popular since 2005, only 41% of Americans currently have a living will.

While the reasons for this are varied—everything from a lack of knowledge about what a living will is, to being uncomfortable thinking about a situation in which a one would be necessary—a living will is an important document to have.

A living will allows you to maintain control over your personal healthcare, in situations where you are unable to personally convey your wishes. This document is different from a medical power of attorney, because it does not grant your decision making power to another person. It leaves the decisions in your own hands, and makes your wishes clear regarding whether or not life support will be used to keep you alive in the case of a terminal condition, permanent coma, or persistent vegetative state.

In addition to clarifying when life support should or should not be used to extend your life, you can also use a living will to specify in which situations you wish to receive food and water from a feeding tube, and when you wish to be provided with comfort care (i.e.: when to receive medication for the purpose of alleviating pain).

Aside from a desire to retain control over your own healthcare decisions, the strongest argument in favour of having a living will is that it removes the burden of end-of-life care from your family.

Often, the family of a patient suffering from a permanent coma, persistent vegetative state, or other terminal condition is unsure of what measures they should take to continue that person’s life. As the Shiavo case illustrated, family members will not always agree about what path should be taken. This can sometimes lead to lengthy court battles, at a time when the family should be at the patient’s bedside.

By drafting a living will in advance, you can save your family from this stress, should you ever be in such a situation. Whether you want to extend your life indefinitely, or prefer to let nature do what it may, a living will will make your wishes clear to your family—and keep the burden of your end-of-life care off of them.