Living with Chronic Pain

What Is a Living Will?

Source: Mayo Clinic, WebMD

A living will, or advance directive, is a written, legal document specifying an individual’s health care preferences in the event they become unable to communicate or make decisions. This includes life-sustaining measures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation, and tube feeding. Decisions concerning pain management, specific medical treatment, and organ donation are oftentimes included in a living will.

A living will removes the burden of difficult decision-making from loved ones. It may also prevent disagreements and remove doubts concerning end-of-life decisions. This can allow individuals, family members, and trusted friends to be at peace.

Establishing a living will should not be delayed until a health crisis occurs. Health emergencies, such as a serious accident, terminal illness, or coma, can happen unexpectedly. A living will helps ensure that adults (of any age) receive medical care that reflects their wishes.

Every adult should have a living will. This is especially true for adults living with chronic pain. Having a living will ensures that an individual's preferred methods of pain management, comfort care, or treatment options are honored if the individual becomes unable to communicate.

If chronic pain progresses or changes, the living will can be reviewed and modified. In order to modify, the initial living will must be revoked or formally changed. No one can change an individual's living will without their permission.

It is important to note that living will laws vary by state, territory or province. An individual's permanent residence determines the requirements of their living will. However, if they regularly travel to another area outside their permanent residence for a significant time period, they should check the laws of that area to ensure their living will is also valid in that specific state, territory or province. A copy of an individual's living will should be kept with other significant health documents in a safe and accessible location.

Once a living will is established, a copy should go to the physician, as well as family members or friends if needed. The physician can advise on any concerns or possible issues with the living will. Although most physicians adhere to living wills, ethical obligations can result in a physician overriding it. Two or more medical professionals must agree that a person is permanently unconscious or terminally ill before a living will is activated.

Additional source: Legal Nature

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