This article speaks to the desirability and detail that should go into the compiling of a “Living Will”. A living will is a document that should “speak” for us when we are unable to do so and should be interpreted by the medical fraternity with sensitivity and empathy.

The first instance involved an elderly lady who suffered a stroke. After a short while she recovered consciousness naturally and was treated as a normal patient until it was noted that she had a “living will”. Immediately, she was denied any food and water, medication or other support. The situation became drastic and the lady was suffering until her daughter demanded of the medical staff that she (the patient) be asked her wishes. When asked, she responded positively and, only then, was given food and water!!!!

The second instance was the complete opposite. Here a patient was suffering from an acute and life threatening affliction. The patient collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Even though it was known that there was a Living Will, the patient was treated and administered adrenalin to restart the heart. When asked why adrenalin was administered, the response was that this was not interference or treatment.  

In both cases, the “Living Will” was interpreted completely differently. This is not an ideal situation and the document needs to be re-worked.

I feel that we need to be a little more specific when we draw up a living will. Both incidents above are the opposite poles of the situation. We court danger if we simply state that we do not want to be attached to tubes for the remainder of our lives, however short that time may be. But, neither have we any real desire to die of thirst or starvation, thank you very much!!!

I feel that the Living Will is a most helpful and important document, in the hands of a reasonable, thinking individual. The problem is that, when we need the document we have no control over the person implementing our decision.

After some deliberation, I suggest the document should contain the following information:

  • Our personal details,
  • Our wishes regarding potential recovery from a particular situation, e.g., “If we will be a “vegetable” we choose to end our life, but if we are only disabled we choose to continue living”, or some such;
  • Our wishes be inscribed, by code, on a bracelet which is worn on our arm; and
  • A list of the codes is displayed in each hospital so that, when the time comes,  our wishes are properly carried out.

Doctors become progressively more important as we age. The strains and afflictions we shook off as youths come back to really annoy us and a whole legion of other problems also arrive. We can only go on living, being useful to others and ourselves and having the most fun our mature bodies will allow.

Play hard, love completely, give with all your heart and laugh as much as you can. Love life, it is the only one you got!!!!!