Log in Subscribe
Making Sense Out of Dollars

The Living Will

Joel Lerner, Columnist
Posted 4/23/21

Part 4 of 4

What to Think About

In effect, a living will expresses your wishes and enforces your decisions when you are no longer able to do so, for yourself. Far from a token gesture, it is a …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Making Sense Out of Dollars

The Living Will

Posted

Part 4 of 4

What to Think About

In effect, a living will expresses your wishes and enforces your decisions when you are no longer able to do so, for yourself. Far from a token gesture, it is a document to be taken seriously and administered with the utmost care. As you contemplate the creation of your living will; take these issues into account:

1. Different states have different requirements for completing and signing a living will.

2. The necessary number of witnesses may vary.

3. Some states specify that witnesses may not be related to you.

4. A notary public may need to attest to the signing of your living will.

5. In some states, living wills are valid for limited periods of time and thus must be updated regularly.

6. Do you live in different states at various times of the year? If so, you must create separate living wills and medical proxy/ documents (health care proxies) for each state where you reside—not just the one you claim as your primary residence. This is the only way to be sure your wishes will be honored, regardless of quirks in laws from state to state.

A living will should state that you do not wish to have any medical procedure done for you that would artificially prolong your life. “No extraordinary measures” is a phrase commonly used. A while back I came across a letter describing the feelings of an individual regarding “right of choice,” and this can be used as a model for your living will.

To my family and/or caregivers:

Realizing that death is a certainty and as much a part of life as being born, if the time comes when I can no longer take part in decisions for my own future, I wish this statement to stand as an expression of my wishes while still of sound mind.

I fear the indignities of deterioration, ‘dependence’ and hopeless pain more than death itself. I therefore ask that medication be mercifully administered to help relieve my suffering. And, if there is no rea­sonable expectation of my recovery, I request that I be allowed to die with dignity and not be kept alive by artificial means or heroic measures.

Many adult children or even spouses will not permit the disconnection of a feeding or breathing machine regardless of the wishes of the patient, because most of us do not wish to let go. “Perhaps later,” we may say, “after a forth­coming rite of passage (anniversary, graduation, wedding, birth of a grand­child, etc.), but not now.” We therefore attempt to extend the time by machines and tubes and insane efforts to keep the patient breathing a few more days or weeks.

A desperate need born of guilt. All of us must learn to close and say good-bye. Closing does not mean shutting the door and turning away. Closing is the realization that there is our own life after the death of a loved one. It is in the form of memory, and becomes our responsibility to carry that memory while living life to the fullest. Every family member must understand this.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here