Technological advances in medicine have helped extend people's lives far beyond what was unthinkable only half a century ago. Today, topics like living wills, or advance directives, are fast becoming the subject of discussions everywhere from
professional symposiums to the family dinner table.
What is a living will? In effect, it is a legal document that a person signs to direct their own end-of-life care. A living will, or "advance directive", provides for specific instructions about the kind of treatment they might receive
before they get sick, especially if an individual is found to be suffering from an incurable condition or terminal disease.
Not only does the living will guide physicians (who often feel they are ethically bound to to prolong life at any cost), but it also eases the burden on family members and next of kin for making any final decisions on the individual's behalf.
attorney Louis Kutner was the first in 1969 to propose a legally
binding document that gave people more control over end-of-life
treatment dubbed "the living will". By
2005, controversial cases like the one surrounding Terri
Schiavo in the U.S. led to increased awareness of quality
of life issues and end of life care as never before.
41% of Americans had a living will.
Obama became the first United States President to announce
that he had arranged for a living will for both he and his
wife, Michelle, and encouraged all Americans to follow his
example, saying "we hope we don't have to use it for
a long time, but I think it's something that is sensible."
followed heated controversy over new
health health care legislation that included proposed
Medicare payments that would help counsel patients regarding
living wills and advance directives.
there is no federal law governing the wording of advance directives,
but all US states have forms and instructions
on how to create a living will variously called "advance
directive," "living will" or "health care
proxy" forms (see below.)
More about living wills and advance directives around the Web:
Find out more at top sites that address the subject with news stories, facts, and more information on how living wills help people control their own care and have their personal wishes carried out right up until the end of life ....
Directives and Do Not Resuscitate Orders - Get a good, clear
overview of how to write an advance directive in the event
of permanent unconsciousness or terminal illness, what to
discuss with your doctors and family beforehand, related discussions
on living wills and power of attorney.
Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning -
Find comprehensive information from the American Bar Association
presenting the hard facts and considerations with helpful
Q&A worksheets, a guide to initiating a potentially difficult
conversation with family members, advice for caretakers and
health care proxies, and related resources.