What Is a Living Will?

What you need to know about a  living will.

Living Will refers to a legal document that states an individual’s medical decisions regarding the use of artificial life sustaining support systems. This is being used when an individual cannot speak for himself due to medical incapacitation. In simpler terms, it is a written request regarding the removal or use of artificial means in the event or accident or terminal illness.

A Living Will is a legal instrument that is notarized or witnessed. It is commonly known as power of attorney or advance directive in the legal field. It emphasizes the principal’s desire to live in case of accidents or illness using artificial or natural elements like food and water. Most living wills contain specific circumstances or conditions under which euthanasia or mercy killing can be performed.

Studies conducted in late 2004 confirmed that only 20% of the population had living will. However, this increase rapidly in early 2005 when the Terri Schiavo case was publicized. She had suffered extreme brain damage after cardiac arrest in 1990. She did not have a living will and that fact brought her husband and family into court to fight for her right to live. In March 18, 2005, Terri’s feeding tube was removed. She died 13 days later due to dehydration.

At the height of the case, it was reported that thousands of Americans requested information about a living will. Studies show that an average of 6,000 people had their living will drafted and notarized from 2004 until late 2005.

This case had played a major part in encouraging people from all walks of life to get this legal document regardless of health status or age. Many legal experts had argued that the Terri Schiavo case could have been avoided if her wishes were properly documented before suffering brain damage.

Difference between a will/testament and a  living will.

Last will or testament refers to the legal document that regulates a person’s property after death. This is often associated with inheritance and intestacy. A last will usually include specific wishes on how to exactly pass properties, obligations, titles, or sometimes debt to family members or closed friends.

A will can be drafted by anyone who is over 18 years of age without the assistance of an attorney. The testator is required to identify himself as the creator of the will and that it is made with free will and right state of mind. Testator must also revoke any wills made previously. This testament must be signed at the end together with the date it was made official. Any entry made after the signature is considered invalid.

A will does not have information about a person’s wish regarding the right to live and does not have legal requirements although it is recommended to have it drawn together with legal advisor.

The benefits of a living will.

Today, more than ever, people are concerned about their fate in the event of accident or severe illness. The following are the benefits of making a living will:

  1. Living will ensures that people get what they wish for regarding artificial life support or euthanasia in the event that they are no longer capable of communicating. People’s opinion about life support and right to live varies. A living will provides peace of mind knowing that whatever happens, people’s wishes will still be granted.
  2. Avoid bitter court battle between loved ones. The Terri Schiavo case could have been prevented if a living will was drafted before her illness. Families of seriously ill patients need to know what they want because most of them would not give up on their loved ones and try every single procedure to keep patients alive even in situation where there is no hope.
  3. Living wills make it easier for doctors to decide on procedures to take for terminally ill patients. There are times that patients would request euthanasia due to severe pain and this cannot be granted immediately. The doctor will be held liable because the patient’s decision are not rationally made and are only based on physical and mental exhaustion.

Everybody has the right to decide in cases of mental and physical deterioration. Planning ahead is never wrong. Make a living will now and let your wishes be heard even if you can no longer talk for yourself.


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