If you have a chronic or terminal disease, there are many medical treatments available that can extend your life as long as possible. However, you may prefer to let nature take its course. If you have a living will, you can make your wishes known to your doctor and your loved ones without having to express them verbally, which may be impossible if you are unconscious or incapacitated.
Your living will can identify the medical treatments you do and do not want to receive, and under what circumstances. While a living will can address a wide range of medical issues, many people prioritize the following.
The purpose of palliative care is not to treat or cure any medical condition. Rather, it is simply to manage pain and keep you comfortable. Sometimes this means doing things for you, e.g., soothing your dry mouth by feeding you ice chips or administering pain medications. Other times it involves avoiding certain interventions, such as tests or treatments that would be invasive.
If your heart stops beating, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which includes stimulation via electric shock, may stimulate it to start beating again. However, if you wish to die when your heart stops beating, your living will can include a do not resuscitate order.
If you are no longer able to feed yourself, you can receive nutrients via a tube placed in your stomach or a needle in your arm. You can indicate in your living will if you willing to receive sustenance in this way and if so, for how long.
Over time, your circumstances may change so that your living will no longer expresses your wishes. If this occurs, you can revise the document at any time.