Living Wills

Imagine yourself lying in a hospital bed oblivious to the world around you, unable to move or show any signs of life. Your own existence controlled by an I.V., a respiratory machine, and a feeding tube. In essence, you are dead. Your body is no longer able to sustain life. Your life’s entire purpose is now replaced by a machine. You are being kept alive by artificial means. At this point, the question arises: Should you be kept alive by these means or should you be allowed to die a natural death?

Unfortunately, you are unable to answer this question because your voice is limited to a "beep" on a heart monitor machine. Who then is going to decide if you live artificially or die naturally? Who gets to play God? Well, if your family doesn't have your written consent in the form of a living will, to cease life support, then the doctor will make the ultimate decision for both you and your family.

Most often, this is the case. Even though writing a living will is just as easy if not easier than writing a death will, many people don't take the time to do so. Therefore, doctors have to debate the question of euthanasia. A question that each one of us should ponder long before we are put in this situation.

What is euthanasia? Euthanasia is not mercy killing. It has absolutely nothing to do with killing. On the contrary, euthanasia by definition simply means "good death" and in the applied sense it refers to

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the patient’s own natural death without prolonging their dying process unduly. What this attempts to accomplish is to allow a person to die with peace and dignity. In most cases, life-support systems simply prolong the terminal suffering of a patient by a few more weeks or months. They do nothing to return a patient to a normal functioning human being. With most terminally ill patients, life support does not mean prolonging life. It means prolonging suffering, for both the patient and their family.

A living will makes the possibility of this entire situation virtually non-existent. A living will is the patient's written request not to be placed on life-support systems, and this request must be honored by the doctor. Just as property is proportionated to those named in a person's death will, so must their requests be recognized in a living will. If a person has a living will written, then if it is so stated, they will not be placed on life-support. Instead, they will either stay in the hospital or be sent home so that their body will be allowed to take the natural course it has begun.

Living wills help medical staff and others to make decisions about your care and treatment should you become seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. In some circumstances, living wills may become legally binding on health care staff. Living wills are considered clear and convincing evidence of a person's preferences for end-of-life treatment.

Even though most of us try to avoid the fact that we are going to die, it is an inevitable fact and we must all plan for the future, abidingly. Therefore, each and every one of us should seriously consider writing a living will. By doing so, you will minimize both the financial and the mental pain and suffering both you and your families may encounter. Furthermore, you will ensure that you and not your doctor makes the most important decision of your life -whether or not to die. Unfortunately, death is a part of life and just as we strive to live with honor, we must also strive to die with dignity.