A "living will" contains directives about the choices that a person can make regarding their medical treatment if they not able to speak for themselves. A free printable sample living will is at the bottom of this page.
Each of us has a right to die with dignity. See the best sample of written directives, that I have found.
"Living wills" attained national attention the 1970's in the tragic case of Karen Ann Quinlan who was left in a vegetative state following alcohol and drug use at a party.
While these directives regarding medical treatment must be followed according to our legal system, the terms of withholding care can be subject to interpretation. The reality is that many doctors and hospitals ignore "living wills".
For example, "positively certain" and "a high degree of certainty" may be viewed dissimilarly. A personal representative, named in the "will", can help to clarify the wishes of the patient.
Terms, such as "persistent vegetative state", "extreme mental deterioration", and "permanent unconsciousness", now are a part of medical terminology in which people who would otherwise die are kept alive by new technology. Clearly there is a need for someone to make decisions for these patients.
I would want a "loved one" present to advise the doctors when to "pull the plug".
A "living will", as any important document, should be updated periodically. Remember to take a copy to the hospital prior to any treatment. A copy should also be part of any travel documents, shared with relatives and your attorney.
A Living Will
To my family, physician, lawyer & others whom it may concern:
Death is as much a reality as birth, growth, maturity, and old age. Death is the one certainty of life. If the time comes when I can no longer take part in decisions for my own future, let this statement stand as an expression of my wishes and directions, while I am still of sound mind.
If at such a time the situation should arise in which there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from extreme physical or mental disability, I direct that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by medications, artificial means or "heroic measures." I do, however, ask that medication be mercifully administered to me to alleviate suffering even though this may shorten my remaining life.
This statement is made after careful consideration and is in accordance with my strong convictions and beliefs. I want the wishes and directions here expressed carried out to the extent permitted by law. Insofar as they are not legally enforceable, I hope that those to whom this will is addressed will regard themselves as morally bound by these provisions.
(William E. Phipps, Death: Confronting the Reality. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1987.)
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