Living Will: Why choose to make one?

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Health care breakthroughs mean that we are living longer, healthier lives. However, the uncertainty of life means that there could come a time when you might no longer be able to advocate for yourself and your healthcare choices.

This is when a Living Will comes into its own. It can speak for you when you are not able to speak for yourself because it is a document that sets out your wishes regarding medical treatment and healthcare decisions in the event that you become unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself due to illness, injury or incapacitation.

Here are some detailed reasons why you might want to draft a Living Will:

1. Control over your healthcare

Having a Living Will lets you retain control over your healthcare decisions, ensuring that your values and beliefs are respected even if you cannot communicate them directly to your healthcare providers.

2. Medical decision-making

A Living Will provides a clear way for you to specify your preferences for medical treatment and procedures. This can include decisions about extended life-support, resuscitation, organ donation, and other healthcare interventions.

3. Ensuring dignified end-of-life care

If you have specific preferences regarding end-of-life care, a Living Will can ensure that you receive the care that aligns with your values and principles.

4. Reducing family trauma and conflict

A Living Will can help prevent family conflicts and disagreements about your medical care, as your wishes are clearly documented in the document. In many cases families are grateful for the reassurance that comes from reading the instructions of a loved one when asked by the healthcare provider to make a difficult decision.

5. Legal requirements

It is important to note that the decision on medical treatment ultimately rests with your doctor and will be based on accepted good medical practice. Where a reasonable case of withholding treatment arises, your doctor can take guidance from a Living Will or the wishes of close family.

In the event you would like to specify detailed requirements, these wishes should be drawn up with your doctor, and are only appropriate where the need for such instructions is likely in the short term.

In short, a Living Will can create peace of mind

Creating a Living Will means you can relax, knowing that your healthcare preferences are documented and that your caregivers know exactly what you would like to be taken into account as they make decisions about your care.


By Ian Beere, CFP® CA(SA)