A living will is a document that allows you to say what should happen if death is imminent and there’s nothing more medically that can reasonably be done. If you are in a hospital and your doctor determines that you are terminally ill with only a short period of time to live, you can clarify that you do want to have administered that serve only to prolong the dying process.
It allows you to express your wishes in advance at a time when your life is not yet threatened and you’re thinking clearly. It comes into play when, an only when, you can’t voice your own wishes and covers only one stage of your life, when you’re near death. For your declaration to take effect, your attending physician must determine that there can be no recovery from your terminal or vegetative condition and your death is imminent or you can no longer experience a meaningful life.
Life-prolonging procedures include any procedure that would serve only to artificially prolong the dying process such as nutrition and hydration administered by invasive procedures; antibiotics; ventilators, pacemakers, renal dialysis, or any other mechanical devices designed to assist the functioning of organs; transfusion of blood and blood products; and cardiac or cardiopulmonary resuscitative procedures.
Our living will works together with our healthcare power of attorney. If the living will is clear, that’s it. If there is any question about what the living will means, the person you have named on the healthcare power of attorney is authorized to clarify what you want.
With these two documents, you can control the types of treatment you’ll receive at the end of your life and who will make sure your wishes are carried out.