Living Wills, End of Life Decisions and Organ Donation

Death is one of life's few certainties, but what happens at the end of our life is something that many people actively choose not to think about. However, we all deserve to have our wishes respected in those final hours and can stipulate precise instructions for medical staff to follow and family members to be aware of. Living wills, end-of-life decisions, and organ donations are all topics that should be addressed.

Living wills

The term "living will" refers to a legal document that stipulates a person's wishes with regards to life-prolonging medical treatment. When a living will is in place, it will enable health practitioners to respect your wishes even when you are no longer able to communicate with them directly.

One example when a living will is commonly used is in the case of a patient suffering from an incurable condition who doesn't want his or her suffering to be prolonged through attempts at life resuscitation. Another example occurs when a person objects to certain forms of medical treatment, such as blood transfusion, typically due to religious grounds.

If a living will specifies that life-prolonging activities are not to be attempted, this is binding upon the medical staff. A living will can also be used to make it clear that you'd like all efforts to be made to prolong your life, even when the likelihood of success is low. This isn't binding upon medical staff, but at least it makes them aware that you would like all possible steps to be taken.

End-of-life decisions

When a loved one dies, it places great stress upon grieving relatives. One of the stresses will be their desire to ensure that your end-of-life arrangements are in accordance with what you would have wanted. You can take the uncertainty away by specifying in advance the things that you want and those that you don't want.

One of the principal decisions relates to funeral arrangements. Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you want a religious or nonreligious ceremony? Are there any particular words that you'd like to be read, or songs that you'd like played? By spelling out your wishes, you can ensure that the end of your life is handled in accordance with your deeply held beliefs and do your part to make this experience a little easier for your loved ones.

Remember, as well, to make a financial will so that the division of your personal estate can proceed with as little hassle as possible and in accordance with your wishes.

Organ donation

Another important end-of-life decision is whether we wish our body parts to be used to help other people. Organ donation benefits countless people each year and can be the difference between life and death. Those who are supportive of organ donation should obtain an organ donor card and specify whether there are any limitations on the organs that they are prepared to donate. When making this decision, you may wish to involve your immediate family to make them aware of your intentions. This will ensure that it's not a shock to them and will provide you with the chance to gauge their views.

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