A living will is an expression of your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions. If you become terminally ill with no chance of recovery (decided by two doctors) and do not wish to be kept artificially alive, then you can sign a living will to make these wishes clear. In order for a doctor to withhold or withdraw life sustaining treatment, they must be presented with clear and convincing evidence of the patient’s wishes. A living can help ensure that your wishes will be honored.
There have been numerous disputes that arise when this clear and convincing evidence is questioned. Most famously, the Terri Schiavo case resulted in a long legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. While Terri’s husband claimed that she wouldn’t have wanted to be kept alive by a feeding tube in a vegetative state, her parents disagreed. If your wishes are in writing, it is less likely for a dispute to arise involving your end of life choices.
Regardless of your beliefs regarding life sustaining measures, it is crucial that you discuss your wishes with your family and loved ones. While a living will is evidence of your wishes, the document’s strength may be diminished if family claims that it is no longer accurate. An elder law attorney can help you through the entire process.