Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Living Will

Nowadays, anyone who finds himself being admitted to any hospital in these United States is going to be asked if he has a living will. If he has a living will, and if this living will is in a form legal in the state in which the hospital is located, it will be added to the patient's medical record, and will be consulted and acted upon, if and when the patient's condition warrants such action. That would be if the patient became incapable of making or communicating decisions regarding the types of life-support measures he would (not) like to be carried out on his behalf by hospital staff. Typically, the living will spells out what should (not) be done if, for example, the patient enters a coma from which he is not expected to awaken, or suffers severe brain damage from which he is not expected to recover. It also confers a durable power of attorney on a hierarchy of one or more individuals, with respect to such issues as being admitted to such health care facilities as hospices and nursing homes; the release of personal medical or financial records; the hiring and firing of health care workers; and the submission of applications for Medicare or other insurance benefits. Finally, it spells out what should be done with the patient's body after death: which body parts, if any, can be donated; whether the remains should be buried or cremated; and where the remains should end up.

I currently do not have a living will, which is a deficiency I am now taking steps to remedy. The regulation of living wills is carried out at the state level, so a living will that is in a form legal in a particular state may not also be legal in a neighboring state. Fortunately, though, there is a non-profit organization, Aging With Dignity, that has a form, called "Five Wishes", that is legal in 40 states, including Delaware as well as both Maryland and Pennsylvania (if I get stem cell transplant, it is likely to happen in one of the latter two). So I am working on completing a "Five Wishes" form in time for my next hospitalization (stem cell transplant may require a bit of hospital time).

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