How a Living Will Could Protect Your Healthcare Wishes

living will, Naperville estate planning attorneyStudies show that only 40 percent of American adults have even a will or living trust. Not having legally binding documents which determine how your property will be divided upon your death or who should be the guardian of your children should you pass away is risky. You are risking the possibility that the courts may have to make these decisions for you.

As an estate planning lawyer, I also believe it is of the utmost importance to consider the medical care you wish to receive while you are still living. Although it is an uncomfortable topic to discuss, end-of-life planning is something that everyone should consider. One common tool for addressing such concerns is a living will.

Extreme Measures

If you have ever watched a medical drama on television, you have probably seen family members arguing about whether or not to “pull the plug” on a relative. While this particular language is a bit crude, discussions about when to terminate life support happen in hospitals around the country every day.

Some people have strong feelings about the medical care they wish to receive. For example, some individuals do not want “extreme” measures taken to keep them alive if they become permanently unconscious or terminally ill. These measures can include things like CPR, deliberation, intravenous nutrition, or ventilation. These are the types of decisions which advance healthcare directives like a living will allow you to solidify. Instead of leaving healthcare decisions up to relatives—who may be experiencing a wide range of unpredictable emotions regarding your health—a living will allows you to predetermine the types of medical procedures you are willing to endure.

A Well-Known Example

In no other case was the need for advance healthcare directives more apparent than that of Terri Schiavo. This Saturday marks exactly 13 years since the young woman’s death. Schiavo was a 26-year-old woman who suffered a terrible cardiac arrest which eventually left her in a vegetative state. She was being kept alive through the use of feeding tubes and machines, but doctors did not expect her to ever gain consciousness again.

Schiavo’s husband did not think his wife would have wanted to be kept alive under these circumstances and requested that her feeding tube be removed. The young woman’s parents passionately disagreed with this plan. The resulting court battle lasted seven years and involved 14 appeals, numerous motions, petitions, hearings, five suits in federal district court, and four denials from the Supreme Court. If she had created a living will that spelled out exactly what she wanted, the entire ordeal could have been avoided.

Get Help Creating End-Of-Life Plans

A living will allows you to take charge of your future and protect your family from the burden of making your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated. The dedicated Naperville estate planning attorneys at The Gierach Law Firm are here to help with all your estate planning needs. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation today.



CBS News

National Institute on Aging