A Living Will, also commonly referred to as an “Advance Medical Directive”, is a document in which you provide instructions for your health care in the event that you have your lost mental capacity and are facing a variety of end stage conditions. In such an instance, an individual is facing almost certain death or has little chance of making a full recovery. However, with advances in medical technology an individual can be kept artificially alive almost indefinitely. The question is, in such a situation, who makes the determination about what types of medical procedures you can undergo?
To the extent that you are competent and able to communicate, you have the right to dictate the terms of your care. However, in the event that you are not competent or able to communicate, hospital regulations or other laws can dictate your care – not your loved ones. Such policies may entail keeping you artificially alive for a long duration of time or subjecting you to invasive procedures in an attempt to revive you. Such procedures can sometimes be very expensive. As a result, a large portion of a person’s savings could be spent paying costly medical bills.
An Advance Medical Directive gives you the power to take control of your health care decisions and provide instructions for how you wish for your body to be cared for after your death. You select a “health care agent” whom you trust to make decisions on your behalf. You provide your health care agent with clear instructions about what types of medical procedures you approve of as well as those you wish with to be withheld from your care. You can specify if you wish to be an organ donor after your death. Further, you can specify what organs, if any, you wish to be donated. You can even specify what purpose you wish for them to be used for.