An accident or sudden illness can leave you incapacitated. What happens when there's a question about the medical treatment needed to keep you alive? People have strong feelings about these things, like life support, pain management, and organ donation. You may want one thing while family members want another thing. Without a living will, your preferences may not be known, and if not known, those choices will be made by someone else––typically a close family member, and what they want may differ from what you would have chosen.
To maintain control over your medical treatment in the event life-threatening illness or injury leaves you without the ability to speak on your own behalf, you should consider drafting a living will. Living wills can be an integral part of anyone's estate plan.
At Heritage Law Office, our living wills attorney in Wisconsin will discuss end-of-life care decisions that you can make in a living will and then draft and execute a valid document. There's no harm in always being prepared for the worst, and at Heritage Law Office, we want our clients to be well-informed and engaged in these types of decisions. Contact us today online or at 414-253-8500 to learn more.
What Constitutes a Living Will in Wisconsin?
A living will is a type of an advanced healthcare directive that tells doctors and loved ones what a person wants to happen in the event that they become incapacitated and need ongoing medical care. They are pre-written medical decisions that provide guidance when the patient is unable to make the decisions at the moment.
A patient's healthcare wishes are only triggered when the patient is unable to make decisions on their own. This can happen when the patient:
- Is in a coma
- Is unconscious
- Suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's
- Is in a vegetative state
A living will allows doctors and the patient's loved ones to provide the treatment that the patient would have wanted, rather than having to guess what the patient would want. The medical preferences in the living will can be specific or general but should consider most if not all of the following:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which restarts the heart when it has stopped beating
- Mechanical ventilation, which is a device that breathes for you
- Tube feeding, where fluids and nutrients are delivered either intravenously or by a tube in the stomach
- Dialysis, a method to remove waste from your bood and manage fluid levels if the kidneys do not function properly
- Antibiotics or antiviral medications, which are used to treat all sorts of infections
- Palliative care, which is basically comfort care to manage pain
- Organ, tissue, or body donations, which could mean that you are treated with life-sustaining care temporarily.
You should also come up with a timeframe to emerge from a coma before ending life support or to determine how long you want any of the above medical treatments.
To note, you do not need a living will for directives indicating: do not resuscitate (DNR) or do not intubate (DNI). You can simply tell your primary care provider and they will write the orders for the same and document it in your medical record. If you put your preferences for DNR and DNI in your living will, it is still a good idea to inform your doctor of the same.
The Benefits of a Living Will in Wisconsin
A living will helps with the confusion and uncertainty that comes from caring for someone who is unable to decide what treatments they want to receive. It can also eliminate the guilt that a patient's loved ones can feel when they have to make a medical decision that could end the patient's life. Likewise, it can prevent disagreements or disputes among family members if they have to decide your fate. Again, everyone has their own opinion, but in these situations, you want yours to be the deciding factor.
Living Will vs Last Will and Testament
Living wills are different from a last will and testament in two important respects:
- Living wills take effect when the person is still alive, while a last will and testament only applies when the person has passed away.
- Living wills direct healthcare decisions, while last will and testament directs how the deceased person's property is to be distributed.
A single person can have both a living will and a last will and testament. In fact, you should have both.
Contact a Living Wills Attorney in Wisconsin Today
There are many reasons to have a living will, but having one is different from having a well-drafted one. You want to think about your values and how important it is for you to be independent or self-sufficient versus not being and having someone else care for you. At Heritage Law Office, our estate planning attorney will go over all these things with you and help you determine what's best for you. Contact us today by either calling us directly at 414-253-8500 or filling out our online form to schedule a consultation.