Common Problems with Living Wills
September 6th, 2011 by Aldouspi

Common Problems with Living Wills

Having a living will certainly helps loved ones when your medical treatment and care is in question. However, did you know that they are not necessarily legally enforceable? While living wills certainly express your desires when your life is in jeopardy and you cannot communicate your wishes, they are not as black and white as you would think.

The problem with living wills is that they are vague and can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. Death is unpredictable and the "what-if" scenario often comes into play. End of life situations are not always clear cut. You could be unconscious and hooked up to all sorts of machines. Now, you may say in a living will to unhook you from all life support but if this is carried out and you can still breath on your own, what happens next? When this happens, there could still be hope for recovery but your living will may or may not cover this scenario.

What if you have some bodily functions and even show some consciousness while there is still no hope for recovery? What would your living will say to do then? There are way too many what-if's to consider and is the reason these documents can be so vague.

Often times, loved ones may not realize you have even prepared these documents. Or, if they know you made one, they have no idea where you have kept it. When preparing a living will, you should consult with your loved ones about it and tell them where you plan to file it so that it can be easily found.

Of course, even if loved ones are in possession of your living will that does not mean they will follow it to the letter, particularly if they disagree. They may choose not to share this living will with the doctors and instead communicate what they wish your treatment should be. This is common with grown children who may not be able to let go of their parents in the hopes that they will recover.

Another scenario to consider is the fact that you might have one member of the family who says that you changed your mind and told them verbally what you would want to happen. The situation then turns into something else entirely. And because this society is totally litigious, doctors may choose to resuscitate or do other treatment measures just to avoid any potential lawsuit from the family member who is contesting the living will.

While there is not much you can do yourself once you are incapacitated, you can cover yourself in advance by getting a power of attorney that covers your health care needs. You will need to choose an impartial friend or family member who can ensure that your health care directives are carried out according to your wishes.

You will also want to talk with friends, family and your doctor about medical care particularly when you have a terminal illness. Be open and honest about what you want and don't want. Telling several people will definitely help should there be no legal document explaining your wishes.

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