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Understanding the importance of a living will

Contrary to what the name suggests, a living will is not actually a will. It is actually a healthcare directive which is designed to dictate a person's wishes if he or she becomes unable to communicate. It is generally designed for instances when an injury or illness leaves a person permanently unconscious or while fighting a terminal illness.

A living will may indicate what a person's wishes are while suffering such disabilities. It may include resuscitation instructions, the wishes concerning organ donations and even whether a not a person should stay alive via a feeding tube. I living will may also specifically address what is to be done regarding possible treatment options and medical decisions regarding the person's health. It is important to understand that a living will is only applicable for someone who is terminally ill or in a vegetative state, and therefore unable to communicate his or her wishes.

In addition to a living will, there are certain decisions that may be made by a person with power of attorney. Power of attorney may allow a person to use his or her own judgement in making health care decisions based on the presumed wishes of the injured or ill person.

Without a living will or power of attorney, it is not uncommon for family members to have disagreements and arguments over the best interests of the person involved. Creating a living will or assigning a power of attorney is important because it allows a person to make all these decisions while he or she is still able, or to select a trusted person to make these decisions on his or her behalf.

Source: findlaw.com, "Living Wills: Introduction," Accessed on Nov. 1, 2016

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