A living will is a legal document that enables an individual to detail, in writing, exactly what their wishes are regarding life-prolonging medical treatments. A living will clarifies to attending medical professionals exactly what type of medical treatment an individual wishes to have administered in order to prolong their life and at which point they wish those treatments to cease. The purpose of a living will is to ensure that everyone involved in the medical decision-making process for the individual clearly understands and abides by the predetermined decisions made by the individual should they become incapacitated and not be able to make those decisions for themselves.
A living will is completely customizable by the individual and can be as specific or generalized as they want it to be. It dictates exactly which types of procedures the individual authorizes medical professionals to take in the event that they become incapacitated. These procedures can cover whether or not the individual wishes to remain on life support systems or whether or not specific drugs are to be used to sustain life.
A living will can also establish the level of which pain-relieving drugs are to be administered should the individual lapse into a state of long-term incapacitation where pain is still felt. It can also preclude any type of treatment an individual wishes to not have in order to sustain life. This can include:
It is important to note that a living will becomes effective only in a situation where the individual becomes incapacitated and can no longer make medical decisions for themselves. The triggering of a living will usually coincides with a life-threatening illness that generally has no hope of recovery.
Generally, in situations where immediate medical treatment has a high probability of saving life and the individual has a good possibility of recovery, the living will is not triggered. In most cases, two doctors must certify that the odds of recovery from an illness are unlikely and there is little possibility of the individual regaining consciousness in order for a living will to become effective. Once a living will has been established, it is important for the individual to ensure that their loved ones as well as their healthcare providers know of the existence of their living will.
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