This critical document is intended to unequivocally state your preferences for end-of-life care. How could such a straight forward document be misinterpreted?
Making end of life decisions starts with a Living Will. (or advance health care directive which includes your Healthcare Power of Attorney). These documents often appear simple, but that doesn’t mean the underlying issues themselves aren’t complex.
According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “A New Look at Living Wills,” unfortunately these issues are only growing increasingly complex.
In its essence, the living will is a document in which you clarify your medical wishes. This allows your doctors to implement your directions if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate them for yourself in the future. Given modern medical science, doctors can keep a human body “alive” long after the “person” inside has lost what he or she would have regarded as a minimally acceptable quality of life.
With each new advance in medical science, there seem to be more and more ethical and legal dilemmas. For example, living wills that allow for the use of feeding tubes and respirators to artificially prolong life while simultaneously insisting that you do not want your physician to employ heroic measures on your behalf if you are ever in “persistent vegetative state”. Moreover, “quality of life” has become increasingly subjective as science progresses. In the end, physicians are uncomfortable with their power to wield life and death in the face of an ambiguously drafted Living Will.
Planning for the end-of-life is never easy but neither is leaving it to loved ones to make their best ‘guessimate’. The solutions still rests with working with an estate plan attorney that is willing to take the time necessary to discuss the challenges ahead. It works because you’ve properly communicated your wishes to your agents, loved ones, physicians and spiritual advisors.
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Reference: The Wall Street Journal (June 8, 2012) “A New Look at Living Wills"