6 min read
Here’s Why You Need a Living Will, Especially Now
Most of us know about how important it is to have a last will and testament that determines who gets your personal belongings when you pass away. But you may not be as familiar with another type of will—namely, a living will.
Serious question: Have you protected your family with a living will? This directive serves you while you’re alive, but are unable to communicate your medical care wishes due to being incapacitated.
Imagine having a stroke or a traumatic brain injury that leaves you comatose and unable to speak with others. How will your loved ones or doctors know what measures you want used or taken in your treatment? You can’t give consent in a state such as that. So, the living will is there to protect you when you can’t speak for yourself medically.
We recommend getting your living will set up as soon as possible. And it’s quick: Our attorneys can do it for you in less than an hour.
Yes, this isn’t the most pleasant subject, so it’s an easy task to put off. However, you don’t want to wait until it’s too late, when you’re unable to tell them how you want your doctors to take care of you.
What issues does a living will cover?
Some of you may remember a famous case that captured the headlines in 2005 involving a woman named Terry Schiavo. She had been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990 and her husband, Michael Schiavo, said that his wife wouldn’t have wished for her life to be prolonged by machines, so he argued to have her feeding tube removed.
Terry’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, disputed Michael’s claim, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Had Terry had a living will, the issue would have been handled much quicker and would have truly covered her explicit wishes regarding treatment instead of the interpretations of her husband and her parents.
To that end, let’s look at what a living will actually covers:
- Withholding life-saving treatments: Two terms you may have heard of are DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and DNI (Do Not Intubate). If you state in your living will that you wish to be a DNR or DNI patient, then the doctors won’t use life-saving treatments to bring you back. This would mean not using CPR or a breathing tube to help you breathe.
- Use of pain meds: Some individuals may have moral or religious issues with the use of extreme pain medications such as opioids. In your living will, you can state that should you be non-responsive, you don’t wish to have these medications administered. Without specific instructions for pain medication, doctors will administer treatments to ensure the patient doesn’t suffer.
- Withholding of hydration and/or nutrition: As in the Terry Schiavo case, sometimes a patient in a vegetative state can breathe on his or her own, but can’t feed themselves and must be given food and water from IVs and a feeding tube. For those patients who don’t wish to have this extreme measure taken, a living will prevents doctors from doing this.
- Removal from life support: For many others, they don’t wish to have their life prolonged by any means of life support machinery. This wouldn’t be done if the patient specifies that in a living will.
- Identifying someone to make medical decisions on your behalf: A living will can also cover who’s allowed to make medical decisions for you if you can’t do so for yourself. This is usually a spouse, partner, or an adult child, but it can ultimately be anyone you wish to designate. This person would then be able to decide what measures can be taken to prolong or sustain your life. If you choose this route, it’s imperative that you communicate this wish with the person and specify to them how much you want done in an extreme medical situation.
- Other goals and wishes: Finally, some living wills also communicate additional health goals and other miscellaneous wishes that they may specify including personal hygiene and modesty. You can also include religious or spiritual instructions, such as the desire to have last rites performed by a priest prior to passing.
Why might you want a living will?
Now that you know what living wills are and what they cover, let’s discuss the reasons why a living will is something you need. For those of us age 18 and over, the most common reasons you might need a living will include:
- A general decline in overall health, especially because of an extended illness
- Traffic accidents or other unexpected events that could leave you incapacitated
- A way of designating a specific person to make healthcare decisions for you
- An upcoming surgery or hospitalization that could lead to complications
- A desire to state your wishes so that it’s more likely they’ll be carried out
- Diagnosis of a terminal condition with no hope of recovery
- Control and overall peace of mind.
In addition, there are two other things to consider. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many people have found themselves suddenly dealing with family who’ve been diagnosed and who are in the hospital unable to communicate. You should also consider a living will because it’ll keep your family from having to make heart-wrenching decisions. They possibly don’t know what you’d want and this is the best way to make that known. Having a living will can also prevent your family from incurring huge medical bills should you be placed on life support or other extraordinary measures without the ability to express your wishes.
Some people may be concerned about having a living will out of fear that they won’t receive the full range of medical care. It may be helpful to know that your living will only gets used when you’ve been medically diagnosed as unconscious or incapacitated by multiple doctors. If you change your mind about what you’ve chosen in your living will, then you can change it or revoke it.
It’s easy to set up your living will. Don’t wait for peace of mind that you could have today.
We’re living in unprecedented times. It’s a smart idea to create your living will and appoint a healthcare power of attorney.
While everyone should have a living will, during COVID-19, you especially must have a living will, if you’re in a high-risk group:
- On the front lines, as a doctor, nurse, first responder or other healthcare worker
- Working in businesses where you come in contact with the public
- At-risk individuals, whether you have an additional health issue or care for someone in this group.
Smedley Law Group makes it super easy for you to acquire your living will. Here’s how easy it is:
1. We’ll send you a living will questionnaire to fill out.
2. Return the form to us with payment.
3. We’ll create the living will.
4. We’ll review and finalize your living will with you via a Zoom video call.
And the best part?
There’s no guesswork for you. We’ll work with you through the entire process.
And if you already have a living will, we can review and update it.
Contact the Compassionate Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today
If you need assistance with a living will or an estate law matter, including wills and estate litigation and administration, you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging family law issues can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.