What Is the Purpose of Living Will?

the purpose of a living will

As we venture through the complex realm of healthcare and medical preparedness, it’s important to address an essential component: the living will. Now, you might wonder, what exactly is a living will, and how does it fit into my healthcare plan?

Let’s take a journey back in time when they used to call it a “living will.” The idea was simple yet profound: if a person is incapacitated, having no brain activity, everything medically plausible has been done, but the person’s body could still technically be kept alive by machines or through heroic measures, a living will would instruct what the person wanted.

Living Wills and Heroic Measures

Understanding the dynamic relationship between living wills and heroic measures is fundamental to comprehending the evolution of healthcare decision-making. Let’s delve into each concept to gain a clearer picture.

purpose of a living will

What Is a Living Will?

In the past, the concept of a living will served as a legally binding document that specified a person’s wishes in situations where they could no longer make decisions for themselves. It primarily addressed scenarios where an individual was no longer of sound mind, didn’t have brain activity, or was in a state where medical intervention could do no more.

The person could state their preference, such as preferring to pass away naturally without the assistance of machines or heroic measures. Alternatively, they could choose to be kept alive in hopes of a miraculous recovery.

The Notion of Heroic Measures

Heroic measures refer to life-saving actions taken by healthcare professionals to keep a person alive in dire circumstances, often involving invasive procedures or advanced life-support machinery. They are typically employed when a person’s condition is dire, but their living will can direct how, or even if, these measures are applied.

The Transformation of Living Wills: Enter Healthcare Directives

Living wills have transformed significantly over time to become what we now refer to as healthcare directives. This shift not only encapsulates the progress in medical legislation but also recognizes the increased complexity of healthcare decisions.

Understanding Healthcare Directives

A healthcare directive is a more comprehensive document than the traditional living will. Not only does it handle the aspect of heroic measures and machine intervention, but it also encompasses additional essential factors. For instance, it involves appointing an individual who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf in case you’re unable to do so.

This appointed person can act in situations of incompetency or extreme physical conditions where you may not be capable of making rational medical decisions. Moreover, a healthcare directive grants them access to your medical records, ensuring they have all the necessary information to make informed decisions about your health.

The Influence of HIPAA

The evolution of the living will into the healthcare directive has been significantly influenced by legislative measures like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This Act is designed to protect the privacy of medical records and history. In essence, it ensures that the appointed person in your healthcare directive has the legal right to access your health information when needed, providing further validation to this document.

The Importance of a Healthcare Directive

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: the criticality of having a healthcare directive in your life planning toolbox. They are more than just pieces of paper; they are your voice in critical medical decisions when you might not have the ability to speak for yourself.

Healthcare directives are often overlooked, yet they’re crucial to secure your medical future. They’re relatively inexpensive to produce, and most healthcare facilities will ask if you have one, highlighting their importance in the medical community.

While it is easy to shrug off thoughts of dire circumstances, having a healthcare directive in place can provide peace of mind, knowing that your health decisions are secure even if you cannot make them yourself.

Work With an Attorney to Prepare Your Living Will

purpose of a living will

The healthcare directive, the evolved version of what used to be known as a living will, is an indispensable tool in healthcare planning. It allows you to have a say in your healthcare, even when you’re not in a position to express it, and appoints a trusted individual to make decisions on your behalf when necessary. If you’ve not yet created your healthcare directive, consider it an urgent task. It’s not just a document; it’s your voice when you most need it. And that’s something you wouldn’t want to leave to chance.

The healthcare directive or the modern ‘living will’ has evolved from being a simple directive to a comprehensive document encompassing different aspects of healthcare decisions. Despite being often overlooked, it is an essential document that guarantees your preferences will be respected in times of medical emergencies. Contact CJB Law today to work with one of our attorneys to prepare your living will.