Living wills are very useful legal documents that can detail your wishes at a time when you are unable to communicate them to a health professional. They are also called “Advance Directives”.
They are typically created when a person is diagnosed with a life threatening or terminal illness and that person is concerned that there may be situations when they are being kept alive when they would have preferred to refuse life-sustaining treatment and be allowed to die with dignity rather than being kept alive with no consideration as to what their quality of life may be after the life-sustaining treatment.
In essence, a living will is designed to give clear guidance to doctors and consultants as to your views on receiving life-sustaining medical treatment.
If a living will is not in place then the decision of whether or not you should receive life-sustaining treatment is made by the Doctors or Consultants who may or may not discuss their decisions with your immediate family.
Making a living will has to meet certain key standards in order for the living will to be valid.
You must be over 18 and in sound mind when you make the living will. You must also specify what treatment you want to refuse, and the circumstances in which the treatment would be refused. Also you need to be clear that the decision to refuse treatment should happen, even if the refusal of treatment could lead to your death. If you want to refuse treatment that could lead to your death you must include the statement “even if life is at risk as a result”.
A Living Will should be signed, dated and also witnessed (if it includes a decision not to receive life sustaining treatment).
A Living Will can only be used if the person is unable to express their views and decisions to the health professionals involved with their treatment through either a loss of mental capacity or an inability to communicate decisions due to being severely debilitated, maybe due to suffering a stroke or being in a coma.
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