What is the purpose of a living will and why should you have one?

A living will is a written, legal document that explains medical treatment you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as other wishes for other medical decisions, such as pain management and organ donation.

The state of Nevada requires the following for a living will to be valid:

  1. The creator of the document is an adult at least 18 years of age or older.
  2. The document needs to be signed by the creator or another person at the creator’s direction.
  3. The signing has to be witnessed by two additional people.

These three requirements, if fulfilled, make the living will a binding legal document.

What are some of the end-of-life medical decisions you may have to consider?

These are some of the procedures to include in your living will:

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation: Restarts the heart when it has stopped beating. Some people with terminal issues have a do not resuscitate order.
  • Mechanical ventilation: takes over your breathing if you are unable to breathe on your own. Your living will might address if, when and for how long you would want to be placed on a mechanical ventilator.
  • Tube feeding: supplies the body with nutrients and fluids when you are unable to feed and hydrate yourself. Determine if, when, and for how long you would want to receive this treatment.
  • Organ and tissue donations: you can have your wishes to be an organ donor in your living will. Or your wishes not to be.
  • Donating your body to science: If you have an agreement with a medical school or university to donate your body for research, you can express this agreement in your living will as well.

These are just a few of the many medical decisions you can make in your living will so medical staff will know your wishes if you become incapacitated.

A living will is one of many advance directives you should have on file to protect your right to have your wishes fulfilled during end-of-life medical care.

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