Although doctors, first responders, and members of the medical community experience illness, injuries and death every day, they still can be hesitant to create a Living Will for themselves. Nonetheless, it’s important.
A Living Will provides instructions about your end-of-life. It can include as much or as little direction as you want, such as the use of pain-relieving treatments, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, and what forms of the life support.
While your Living Will expresses certain wishes to your family members and your medical team, it does not take the place of the Healthcare Power of Attorney. As an end-of-life document, it cannot address whether you’d want certain life-saving treatments like emergency surgery. That is the purpose of appointing a healthcare agent in a Healthcare Power of Attorney - so the agent can act in your best interests.
Members of the medical community, like everyone else, need both a health care power of attorney and a living will. Due to the high risk of serious injury that comes especially with a first responders’ duties, it is even more imperative to have this advanced planning in place. In many states, the “health care agent” has the responsibility of making the decision of when to “pull the plug” on care in the Living Will so it is actually a part of the Healthcare Power of Attorney. This is not the case in Virginia which makes a Living Will all the more important. In Virginia, when creating and executing Living Will, you, not your loved ones, are providing the medical community with your specific instructions of how and when not to treat you if you were to become an incapacitated individual. So, what can your Living Will provide?
Be in control of your end-of-life decisions. Without a living will, the decisions to carry out your last wishes could be made by the court. In this situation, state law takes effect and dictates who will have a say in your well-being. With a living will, you control how decisions are made and who will make them.
Protect your life partner. Without a living will, the law will place the health care power of attorney in the hands of your spouse, and then your family. If you have a long-time partner but are unmarried, your partner would have no say in any end-of-life decisions.
Select one of your children to assist. With a health care power of attorney, you eliminate confusion as to which of your children will make the decisions to enforce your living will and decisions on end-of-life care.
Peace of mind. Living Wills provide comfort and peace of mind. This is a stressful time, and a living will helps smooth out the logistics and questions that will arise.
Organ donation. You can state your instructions for organ donations in a living will.
Without a living will, decisions can become difficult for the family when a loved one is in a terminal state. Families are left wondering whether they made the right decision.
Reference: EMS1.com (May 6, 2017) “Why EMS providers need living wills”