What Is A Living Will and Do I Need One?

A living will sometimes be confused with a last will and testament. Of course, we’re lawyers, we make everything confusing, and we use the term will in multiple documents. A last will and testament says, when I die this is where my assets are going. That is not a living will. A living will is also called an advanced medical directive, it’s a medical document that I would recommend anyone over the age of 18 have, and the reason why is, it deals with life support in two very specific situations.

So the first situation where a doctor would use a living will would be if you’re terminal, so that means your body is physically dying. Two doctors have agreed they can’t reverse that condition from happening, so something is physically killing you. If that’s the case, we should tell the doctors what your desire is for life support. We don’t want them just following the default rules in Colorado, we want them to follow what your wishes would be. So, you have the option, in a living will, to say, “If I am physically dying, I’m terminal, I am completely unable to communicate,” so again, you’re basically unconscious at this point, or physically unable to communicate any indication of what you’d like, the living will tells the doctor, do I want life support, including a breathing tube and a feeding tube.

And you can do different things, so for some folks, they say, “I want a breathing tube, but maybe I don’t want to be artificially fed,” or, “Maybe I only want a breathing tube for five days, but if they pull the breathing tube after five days I want to be artificially fed indefinitely, until my body ceases living.” We have a couple options when it comes to the living will, in terms of, again, the life support and the artificial nourishment, or the feeding tube. The first situation is you’re terminal, physically dying, can’t communicate. The second situation is if you’re in a persistent vegetative state. You know, that’s a very confusing term, all that really means is that two doctors have to agree you can’t think, you can’t feel, and they don’t think you’re every coming out of this state, it’s similar to an irrevocable coma. If that’s the case, and you clearly can’t communicate at that point, if that’s the case then we need to, again, tell the doctors what your wishes are regarding a breathing tube and a feeding tube. We have a multitude of options, and you get to tell us what you want, and we make sure we draft that in the document for you.

A living will addresses life support, both breathing tube and a feeding tube, in those two very specific situations, if you’re terminal, or if you’re in a persistent vegetative state.

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