What is a Living Will?
A Living Will states your wishes regarding life support in the event that you cannot express your end-of-life wishes on your own. A Living Will is only applicable if you are in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma or are terminally ill and can no longer make and communicate your own wishes. It does not apply when you have a health issue, such as a heart attack or a motor vehicle accident, unless those incidents cause the two factors listed to occur. A Living Will spares your family the pain of making life-support decisions without your input. A Living Will also ensures that your doctor understands your end-of-life wishes and treats you accordingly.
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As part of an overall plan, a Living Will is an integral part.
A Living Will sets out the life sustaining services that you do not want. By default, the document states that you do not want the services considered as life sustaining. They are artificial hydration and nutrition (food and water), artificial ventilation (breathing) and CPR (heart beating). For more information, view the State of Connecticut page about them.
If you want any of those services, you should cross out that service and initial next to the strikeout, before you sign. Two people will watch you do this, and then sign that they watched you do this.
It is important to remember that this document does not deal with the taking of a life, just with the unreasonable prolonging of death. The actual words used in it are “I do want sufficient pain medication to maintain my physical comfort. I do not intend any
direct taking of my life, but only that my dying not be unreasonably prolonged.”
Along with the Living Will, you should also have an Appointment of Health Care Agent. A Health Care Agent is someone you appoint to convey your end of life decisions, on your behalf, if you are not able to. This appointment works together with the Living Will, to make sure that your wishes are both known and communicated. When considering who this should be, you should consider two questions. First, is the person willing to be you Health Care Agent? Second, are they willing to abide by your decisions, not their beliefs? If the answer to either question is no, then you should choose another person to be your Health Care Agent.
The third document that should be utilized is a Designation of Conservator. With advances in medicine coming faster and faster, the likelihood of our body outlasting our mind grows everyday. At some point, almost all of us will need some level of assistance is our day to day care and decision making. If that need is great enough, the Probate Court may appoint someone to make those decisions for us. That person is called a Conservator. A Conservator takes over your decisions, and impose their decisions on you. Scary stuff. Especially since the Conservator may be a stranger to you, and unfamiliar with anything about you.
You have the ability to pick that person in advance. A Designation of Conservator sets out who should be your Conservator, when and if you need one.
Together, these documents are called Advanced Directives. Together with a Will, Trust or other Estate Planning option, they allow you to fully plan for a less pleasant time, and save your family from the worry, pain and difficult choices.