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A living will is a document that you can prepare to help others make medical decisions for you if you are too sick or injured to make decisions for yourself. A living will can help you if you ever have a terminal condition (an illness or injury that will lead to your death) or if you are in a persistent vegetative state or a coma. Laws regarding living wills vary by state. You can name someone you trust to be your Health Care Agent. This person will use your living will and other documents you provide to give instructions to the doctors about your care.
It is important to create your living will at a time when you are well enough to think clearly about the choices you are making. If you change your mind later, you can change your living will. Your living will gives you the opportunity to note treatments that you definitely want and others that you definitely don’t want. You can also set up criteria to determine whether you want a treatment or not.
The American Bar Association’s Commission on Aging provides this list of things to think about before you prepare your living will. Consider whether or not you would want treatment if you had the following conditions:
• You no longer recognize your friends or family and cannot respond to them being with you.
• You can no longer think or speak clearly.
• You can no longer respond to instructions or requests.
• You can no longer walk but are able to move around in a wheel chair.
• You can no longer get outdoors and are spending all your time at home.
• You are in severe pain most of the time that cannot be treated.
• You have severe discomfort most of the time, such as nausea or diarrhea.
• You can no longer eat and are on a feeding tube to provide nourishment.
• You can no longer breathe for yourself and are on a breathing machine to keep you alive.
• You need someone to care for you 24 hours a day.
• You can no longer control your bladder or bowels.
• You must permanently move to a nursing home.