Is a “Living” Will An Oxymoron?

Living Will. It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Living as in alive, will as in a document that goes into effect when you die. Is that correct?

You can also think of the term “will” as a desire or resolve in regards to a particular situation.

Let’s take a look at what such a situation could be.

Let’s suppose one of your relatives is in a car accident. They are physically alive with the help of machines to breath for them and keep their heart pumping, but the brain has no activity. What would be their desires if they knew they would be in this situation?

They are suffering from a terminal illness. They have endured all the treatments the doctors said might help. They have lost all quality of life, and it is hard for them to communicate. What is their wish?

Let’s say a friend had a massive stroke. They cannot take care of themself, they cannot talk, they lie in bed all day and that is it. There is no hope it will get better. If they have another stroke, it might be the death of them; however with some lifesaving techniques, they could continue to live. Do they want this?

Your family member has some sort of medical calamity and lapses into a coma. They have no hope of recovering. What would they want their loved ones to do?

These types of situations are faced by people all over the world every day. Making those decisions can be difficult, emotional, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, stressful, and can turn family members against each other.

Would you want that for your family? I don’t think many of us would. So how do you prevent this?

Let’s talk for a moment about what happens if they do not have a living will. What happens may go something like this:

The relatives, (children, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents, what have you) show up and begin to debate what the person would have wanted in this situation. Some of them will be in favor of “letting them go” (letting them die a natural death) and others will want to put them on life support “just in case” there is a chance they may survive.

The two factions will start to argue about what their wishes would have been. They are arguing a life and death situation. Feelings will run very deep here. The hospital (or care facility the patient is in) will not enter into the discussion, but will tell both camps what needs to be done to enforce their point of view.

Hence, an attorney will be contacted. This attorney will draw up papers that will say relative A has more right to make the decision than relative B because……………..he is a closer blood relative, your family member liked him more, your family member told her that they wanted to have this or that, they told him they trusted him, they told her that they didn’t like A, etc., etc., etc. Get the message?

Then the different camps will all get attorneys and they will take it to court. Now a judge is involved and he (or she) hears all the arguments from each one, why, who, because, when, blah, blah, blah.

The judge will take some time to review all this, and at some point render his or her decision. This decision may or may not be what your family member would have wanted. After all, the judge doesn’t know them.

So that’s the end, right? Hardly!!! Now those that didn’t get their way file an appeal. This can go on and on and on. Remember, they honestly believe they are acting in the person’s best interest. However, their relationships with one another are torn apart.

Meanwhile, your sick family member is at the mercy of all the bickering, legal, and emotional garbage.

So, is this what you would want for your family?

That is what a living will is for. You will make this decision before any of the above happens. This legal document allows the signor to direct their care when they are unable to communicate. It allows the family to have peace about the decision because it is THEIR decision, not the family’s decision. It also allows the family to keep relationships intact and to mourn your family member (if that is the end result) together as a family.

Now for some specifics:
  • Each state has different rules and regulations regarding a living will. Although you can put one together through one of the legal websites, please have it reviewed by an attorney to make sure it will be recognized in their state.
  • These documents only become effective when you are declared (by a health care professional) unable to make your desires known.
  • You can change your living will if you so desire. If you want to have all methods of keeping you alive but change your mind and want to die a natural death, you can re-file the living will.
  • You will not just be left to die. You are given what is called palliative care. You will be cared for and kept comfortable.
  • You should carry some sort of ID or notification that you have a living will and the place it can be found. This is where the organization comes in. Along with the location, a list of people to call in cases of accident or sudden illness should also be available.

I have seen families torn apart by the lack of a living will. It is so easy to do. For the sake of your family, encourage everyone to take care of this now.

If you need help, please contact us here at Family DocuMap. We are the experts at personal and financial document management. We are here for you and for your family.