What is a Living Will or Other Advance Directive, and Do I Need One?
Preparing for what will happen at the end of one’s life is overwhelming, but necessary. An experienced attorney can assist you in this process and make it easier to navigate.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a written document that states your end-of-life medical treatment preferences. For example, this would be used in a situation where you are in a coma and have a terminal condition from which there is no reasonable expectation of recovery, and which will probably result in your death regardless of the use of life support. These documents are permitted under the law in Tennessee that provides that every person has the fundamental and inherent right to die naturally with as much dignity as circumstances permit and to accept, refuse, withdraw from, or otherwise control decisions relating to the rendering of the person’s own medical care, specifically including palliative care and the use of extraordinary procedures and treatment.
What is another Advance Directive?
An Advance Directive is a person’s written statement relating to the subsequent provision of health care for the individual. Tennessee Code Annotated § 68-11-1802. An Advance Directive can be a living will, or a durable power of attorney for health care, or an Advance Care Plan that includes directions if you are in a coma (like a living will) but also directions for much broader situations, such as if you develop Alzheimer’s or become completely paralyzed.
The Advance Directive typically specifies the types of life-sustaining treatments you do or do not want to receive if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself, such as if you are in a permanent coma, or have permanent confusion, or become completely dependent in all activities of daily living, or have a terminal end-stage illness. It is important to note that you can always revoke the will or other advance directive or revise your wishes. Here are some examples of what can be included in an Advance Directive:
- Decisions about quality of life. For example, what would you want to happen if you were experiencing permanent unconsciousness, permanent confusion, end-stage illness, or dependence in all activities of daily life.
- Specific treatment you wish to have. For example, would you want to be resuscitated or be on artificial life support? Would you want treatment for new conditions? Would you want tube-feeding or IV fluids?
- Organ donation.
- Any other details, instructions, or wishes you have for medical treatment, or burial instructions, or similar.
- A healthcare power of attorney allows you to designate a person to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are not able to. The agent in the healthcare power of attorney would not be able to change decisions you’ve already made (for example, about life support), but they can make decisions in other situations where you have not directed a particular outcome, taking into account all the costs and benefits of treatment options.
Do I Need a Living Will or Other Advance Directive?
Whether you need a living will or other advance directive depends on your personal beliefs and values. If you have strong feelings about the types of medical treatments you want or do not want to receive at the end of your life, it would be a good idea to have a living will or advance directive. This way, your wishes will be known and respected, and your loved ones and healthcare providers will have guidance on how to care for you according to those wishes. We never know when an incapacitating event may occur, and if you have children or others you look after, it is crucial that they know what your wishes are for the end of your life.
It is important to note that a living will or other advance directive only comes into effect when you are unable to make decisions for yourself, so you will still be able to make decisions about your medical care while you are able to do so.
How Do I Create a Living Will or Other Advance Directive?
Now that you know what a living will and other advance directive is and some reasons to create one, how do you go about writing one? This is where an attorney comes in, however, here are a few basics that go into creating a living will or other advance directive:
- Your signature; and
- Two competent adult witnesses; or
- A notary signature.
Judy Oxford Can Help in Tennessee
I have over 30 years of experience serving the legal needs of those in Tennessee. When you are facing potentially life-altering complicated issues, you should consult a professional. I am committed to serving your best interests and have the skill necessary to achieve your goals. Call 615-791-8511 today to get started.