A living will is another term for an advance directive for medical decisions. Living wills or advance directives are legal documents which allow you to speak concerning your wishes and desires in situations where you are unable to. They tell medical professionals what your treatment desires are during dire medical emergencies and during end of life care.
These legal documents come in varying types.
A living will contains specific instructions regarding the types of life sustaining treatments that you wish or do not wish. They can cover intubation, feeding tubes, and the like. You can indicate what types of life sustaining measure you wish to be undertaken and for how long. These directives act as a set of instructions which medical professionals are required to consult and act in accordance with if you have a valid living will on file with your doctor/and/or hospital. These documents can also contain instructions regarding cremation, burial and the like.
A do not resuscitate order (DNR) is a specific type of order that indicates your wishes to refuse cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event that your heart stops eating and/or you stop breathing. You can indicate whether you wish to be resuscitated and for how long those efforts should continue.
A Power of Attorney for Medical Care is a document that allows a particular person whom you have named as your agent, to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so. This allows the agent broad powers to make many types of medical decisions on your behalf. Choose someone whom you trust implicitly. Choose someone whom you know will make the decisions that you would want made. Discuss these decisions with the agent so that they know what your wishes are.
Since a living will cannot cover all types of medical emergencies, it may be prudent to have a combination of advance directives on file, especially if you are near the end of life or are entering the hospital for surgery or other medical procedure.
There is a lot of information out there.
For a site where you can download directives applicable in the state you live in, look at a site called Caring Connections . The downloads are in a pdf format and are free.
As you plan ahead, share your wishes with your family and friends. Let them know what you desire.