A living will is a document decided before death that prescribes the medical attention you choose in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. According to the Illinois General Assembly, the Living Will Act was passed to ensure that every state resident had the fundamental right to control the decisions related to his or her own medical care. This means that these decisions are not left to chance or to family in the event that sickness or other incapacitating factor makes the person unable to decide for himself.
Proponents of living wills say that these are matters of patient rights—physicians are not able to withhold or withdraw death-delaying procedures if a patient has signed a living will. For a living will to be valid, it needs to be signed by the patient (before he or she experienced the debilitating conditions) in the presence of a witness. The death-delaying procedures can include, but are not limited to:
- Assisted ventilation; or
- Intravenous feeding or medication; or
- Blood transfusions; or
- Artificial kidney treatments.
Determining a living will before a person becomes sick is essential, as discussing a person's last wishes when he or she is straddled with debilitating disease can be difficult and emotional. According to a recent article in The Guardian, however, a living will can sometimes be a negative thing for physicians. In certain cases, physicians can be backed into providing treatment far after a patient's body has ceased functioning because he or she signed a living will—which is sometimes decades old.
Extreme medical advances in recent decades allow physicians to keep a person alive far past the point of truly living. In the worst-case scenario, a living will can sometimes require physicians to perform harrowing and terrible procedures in order to honor a person's wishes—which perhaps he would no longer have chosen for himself. According to The Guardian, 70 percent of an average person's medical care costs are accumulated in the last six months of his or her life.
Living wills are important for anyone, regardless of medical history or socioeconomic status, because they allow a person to determine what he or she wants for his or her final days. Yet it is imperative that they be updated, reviewed, and revisited often, most beneficially in the presence of a legal professional. If you are ready to draft your living will or interested in learning more, do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today.