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01/19/15 - Deciding Your Health Care Future: What You Need to Include in a Living Will



What would you want your loved ones to decide for you if you were unable to communicate your health care wishes in the event of a serious illness or accident? Would they know what types of medical interventions you wish to receive?

A living will, also called an advance health care directive, is a document that describes just that: your wishes regarding the medical treatment you receive if you are unable to give informed consent. It allows you to give explicit instructions regarding life-sustaining treatments.

What to Include in a Living Will:

Health Care Agent - Who should make medical decisions on your behalf? While your living will acts as a guide in making those decisions, you will still need an individual to interpret your wishes and see that those instructions are followed.

When to Discontinue Care - At what point should life-prolonging treatment be ceased if your condition does not and will not improve? For example, you may want to permit a feeding tube for a short period of time while you recover, but not have it become a permanent life-sustaining measure.

Excluded Treatments - Are there any particular life-saving measures that should never be administered? Common ones include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), ventilator, intravenous feeding tube, blood transfusions or dialysis.

Palliative Care Preferences - Discuss what pain relieving measures you would like if the decision were made to forego life-prolonging treatments. This can include choosing to leave the hospital and return to the comfort of your own home.