A living will is different from general wills. It allows a person to detail the medical treatment they would find acceptable before they lose the mental capacity to determine this for themselves.
An example may be a Jehovah’s Witness who does not accept blood transfusion. Such a person should write a living will to inform hospitals and doctors of the extent and nature of the medical treatment they will find acceptable.
Who should write a Living Will? • Anyone over the age of 18 can write a living will. • If you have strong views on specific medical treatments, it would unquestionably be in your best interest to write a living will.
Why write a Living Will? • To relieve your family from having to make tough decisions about your health and in the most extreme of cases, your life. Examples include switching off a life support machine. As you can imagine, it can be extremely difficult for family members to make such decisions as these. When the decision has already been made by yourself via a living will, family members can feel rest assured when following the wishes of your living will, and ultimately, it makes for a somewhat smoother process of what could have been an otherwise challenging time.
• To avoid the possibility of receiving medical treatment that you would otherwise opposed to vehemently. For example, some may prefer to die than to be confined in a persistent, irreversible ‘vegetable’ state.
Refusing Treatment One can declare in their living will to make an advance decision to refuse specified medical treatment in specified circumstances.
A living will can be amended or revoked at any time by the person who write it providing that the person has adequate mental capacity to do so.
It is possible for a person who has a living will to later appoint a power of attorney, however, it should be noted that this would subsequently mean that, where there is a conflict between the terms of the will and the power of attorney, the latter will prevail.
It will always be difficult to accurately anticipate the circumstances that may arise. Therefore, it is also challenging to accurately determine the extent and nature of medical treatment that one may find acceptable to include in a living will.
In addition, in the event of an emergency, medical treatment may be administered before any provision of a living will is brought to the attention of doctors/hospitals.
An alternative option to avoid this is to grant a power of attorney and permit the individual to deal with any life sustaining treatment.