How a living will becomes your voice after you pass

Many people put off thinking about their wills. It reminds us that we are mortals and that someday we will no longer walk the earth. If a person does not designate a spouse or other family member to implement one’s final wishes, then an alternative is a living will.

How to set up a way to honor one’s final wishes should not be the cause of lost sleep. A living will can specify the terms for what happens after a person gets too sick to make cogent decisions. It usually covers the extent of medical care one desires to undergo near the end of life. It can spell out clear wishes for what doctors should do, and for how long they should do it.

Sometimes it is hard to imagine serious illnesses or the decisions that must be made in case you are diagnosed with a terminal or painful disease. Doctors refer to artificial nutrition as the means to whether or not you would want a feeding tube if you are unable to swallow and chew on your own. Fluids and nutrition can be maintained at a life-sustaining levels over the period of time. You may need intravenous feeding or a catheter to help with bodily functions.

Another decision you could put in your living will might be if you want cardiopulmonary resuscitation or advanced cardiac life support if you stop breathing. A mechanical ventilation device can help you breathe if your lungs are not able to do this on their own. This is used for short-and long-term care.

Organ-sustaining treatments, such as kidney dialysis or mechanical ventilation are also part of the instructions you can clarify in a living will. While these treatments do not cure, they may extend the life of a loved one.

These are not easy subjects to discuss. Designing living wills might clear people’s minds and put them at peace that these life-sustaining decisions will be respected during one’s final hours. It also eases the burden of our loved ones who are already grieving for a life lost. Removing the stress of these decisions is the reason most people take on the challenge of determining in advance how they will be cared for in their final hours, as well as at the time of their death.

Source:The Daily Reflector, “Dr. K: A living will speaks for you when you can’t” Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff, Dec. 14, 2013