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Do You Have a Living Will?

Man and wife in hospitalEvery one of us — young or old, living with cancer or cancer-free — may come to a time when we cannot speak for ourselves.

An accident, serious illness, or emergency can leave us unable to make critical health care decisions.

If that happens to you, is there someone who can speak up for your wishes, who knows what you want and can legally ask for it?

Today, April 16, 2011, is National Healthcare Decisions Day.  Today we are urged to select someone to be our voice when we cannot speak for ourselves and complete a living will that lets our wishes be known.

An advanced directive

  • Appoints a health care proxy or surrogate who can speak for you if you cannot tell the healthcare team what treatment you want — or don’t want.
  • Puts in writing a living will documenting how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and cannot speak for yourself.

Help with Advanced Directives

Five Wishes helps you prepare a living will to let loved ones know how you want to be treated when you are seriously or terminally ill and cannot speak for yourself.  The Five Wishes document, written in simple, easy-to-understand language, is now legally accepted in 42 states.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has a booklet that can help cancer patients, their families, and their doctors make individual plans for care at the end of life.  You can download Advanced Cancer Care Planning or order a printed copy.

If you are a health care proxy for someone else, the American Bar Association has help in carrying out that role. Making Medical Decisions: A How-To Guide provides both practical information and emotional support for a difficult task. It reminds family and friends:

Don’t be afraid to use the “D” word: Dying. It’s hard to talk about illness and dying, but it’s a lot harder making decisions without having a sense of what the person would want.

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