Should One Fear Creating a Living Will

Advance care plans for use at the end of life are also called living wills. An example of how they're used is Jim's case. He's driving home from a meeting. His wife, Donna and their children are waiting for him to get home for dinner, but an 18-wheeler hits his car on I-10. Donna rushes to the hospital and sees her brain-damaged husband on a respirator. Jim's brain won't recover, but his body can be kept alive on the respirator. What must she do? Emotions overcome her.

Fortunately, she didn't have to make the decision about whether to remove him from the respirator or allow his body to be tortured by extended artificial care because Jim had written a plan telling the doctors what to do. In case of catastrophic injury or terminal illness, he wanted to die in peace, naturally, without having the awful burden of making the hard decisions put on his wife’s shoulders. He had contacted a non-profit organization some years before to write his advance directives. Jim was released from the machines to die naturally a few hours later.

Most of the time, a living will is used when people are terminally ill from diseases like cancer. Some facts about advance directives or living wills should reassure us. Anyone over 18 has the right to decline medical treatments that cause unwarranted suffering and serve only to prolong the dying process. A living will is a legal document that allows one to make healthcare choices for the future, when confusion or unconsciousness makes it impossible to communicate preferences.

The choices made in an advance care plan will be implemented only when the end stage of an illness is at hand and treatment would only prolong the natural dying process. Fear has no place in advance care planning because these plans do not apply when there is a reasonable chance for recovery. They can give your family and you immense peace of mind.

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