A Living Will is often confused with a Health Care Proxy and vice versa by many individuals. Although both provide advance directives regarding medical decisions, they both are separate documents with distinct features and purposes.
It is vital to become aware of these terms, what they mean, and the impact both documents can have on your life and the lives of your loved ones. Get informed and ensure that your legal rights are protected.
A Living Will
A Living Will is a written statement of an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment. This document is created to define a person’s specific plan as to how their health care will be handled if they are gravely ill or incapacitated in the hospital. The primary issue to be determined in a Living Will is whether a person wishes to be put on life support, and what type of life-preserving measures should be taken.
A Living Will is vitally important not only for the ill person, but for the family. Without a Living Will, a physician may call upon the family members to make very difficult judgment calls. These types of matters have been increasingly more common with advancements in medical science, and the increased ability to extend life.
Living Wills give detailed instructions regarding medical treatment if an individual is in a persistent vegetative state, in a coma, or otherwise unable to communicate how she wants his/her medical treatment handled. Perhaps a person does not believe in being kept alive by artificial means, particularly if there is no hope of recovery. A Living Will stating this fact would give this person control over their own health care when they are unable to express their own wishes.
A Healthcare Proxy
A Healthcare Proxy varies from a Living Will in that a Health Care Proxy appoints a particular person to speak on your behalf regarding medical decisions, if you are in a situation where you can’t make them yourself. The idea behind a Health Care Proxy is that someone makes the decisions you would have made, had you been able to do so.
You must choose your proxy thoughtfully since he/she will be acting on your behalf. After appointing your proxy, it is extremely important to discuss your wishes with them about your medical care, including resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration and personal goals for quality of life. Knowledge of your wishes will help guide the decisions your proxy will have to make with your medical team. Knowing that any decisions made are based on your personal values and wishes will be a comfort to family and friends during a stressful time.
Contact an Attorney
If you become unable to direct your own medical care because of illness, an accident, or advanced age, the right legal documents are your lifeline. When you don’t write down your wishes about the kinds of medical treatment you do or don’t want to receive and name someone you trust to oversee your care, these important matters can be placed in the hands of estranged family members, doctors, or sometimes even judges, who may know very little about what you would prefer. In order to ensure you are protected, contact an experienced attorney today.