Critical Issues to Consider When Drafting a Living Will

Planning, Wills

As people age, some of the toughest decisions they must make involve end-of-life care. Those who do not make these critical decisions often force family members into the uncomfortable position of making the decisions themselves.

To avoid placing loved ones in these situations, health care professionals advise all adults create a comprehensive plan. Sometimes called “advance directives,” these plans include creating a living will.

A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive. It can also deal with issues like pain management or organ donation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There are several medical issues that should be covered in your living will. Some of the more common issues include:

  • CPR or fibrillation: Do you want doctors to use compressions or electrical shock to restart your heart if it stops beating?
  • Breathing tubes: If you can’t breathe on your own, do you want doctors to inserting a tube in your throat or put you on a ventilator?
  • Feeding or hydration: If you are in a vegetative state, do you want to be indefinitely fed and hydrated?
  • Dialysis: If your kidneys fail, do you want to be put on a dialysis machine?
  • Pain management: What sort of pain management options do you want administered?
  • Organ donation: At the point of death, do you want your viable organs to be donated?

One of your first considerations should be whether you want to appoint someone with power of attorney, which allows the person you designate to make medical decisions on your behalf if something happens that is not covered in your living will.

Having advance health directives and appointing someone with power of attorney will also assist your physician in the event your family has disagreements regarding your care.

“Physicians prefer these documents because they provide a written expression from you as to your medical care and designate for the physician the person he or she should consult concerning unanswered medical questions,” according to the American Bar Association.

A living will only take effect after a primary physician determines certain medical conditions are met, and sometimes a second doctor is required to confirm the decision.

You do not need a lawyer to have a living will, although you can use an attorney if you like. There are a number of online sites where you can get a free form to create a living will. It does not have to be complex or elaborate. Specific requirements vary by state, so make sure and check the requirements where you reside.


If you’d like assistance with creating your advance directives, the staff at Cornerstone VNA is a great resource. Contact us today.

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