Living wills are legal documents drawn up that specify what medical care an individual wants or does not want done in the event they are unable to state their wishes. Living wills, also known as advance directives, guide healthcare providers in the event of life-threatening medical conditions.
Living wills are consulted by health care professionals when a terminally ill or unconscious patient requires life saving care. This may include resuscitation or even life support. The living will shall be taken as the patient’s own wishes and followed to the latter. In the absence of a living will, a spouse, family member or next of kin may be consulted.
Are Living Wills Always Considered?
Living wills only come into play when an individual is facing a life-threatening emergency. Doctors do not routinely consult living wills for ordinary medical conditions. Many states provide for the writing of a living will although in most cases, a standard form filled will suffice.
What Should You Include in Your Living Will?
A living will can carry as much or as little as you would prefer. The most common scenarios are resuscitation, assisted breathing, dialysis and pain management. You may also include the donation of your organs in the event of brain death.
Most individuals may also specify the level of pain control that should be used on them in the last hours of death. It is within your right to refuse or accept as much medical intervention as you would like.
Does Massachusetts Accept Living Wills?
No. Massachusetts is one of the few states that does not accept living wills as legally binding. Instead, the law in Massachusetts allows for a health proxy. This is an individual selected by you that will be able to make all healthcare related decisions on your behalf in the event of a life-threatening emergency.
The law requires healthcare proxies to be over the age of 18 and known to have your best interests at heart. You may give them absolute power or limit them in terms of what they can and cannot make decisions on.
What Is the Age Limit Required to Have A Living Will?
Health related emergencies are becoming more common than we are willing to admit. It therefore only makes sense that all living adults have living wills and/or healthcare proxies in the event they may be needed.