What type of advance directives can be included in a living will?


Quick Answer

Many advance directives in living wills deal with whether the patient wants doctors to attempt resuscitation if the heart stops beating, according to the American Cancer Society. Other advance directives can dictate which organs and tissues the patient wants to donate, if any.

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Full Answer

Living wills allow the patient's health care wishes to be known if she becomes unresponsive or suffers from a condition that makes her unable to make an informed decision, such as Alzheimer's disease, explains the ACS. Although state laws may vary, living wills generally only come into effect if the patient has a terminal illness or is never going to regain consciousness.

Many advance directives dictate the use of life support equipment, according to Nolo. This equipment can include dialysis machines and ventilators. People can also decide whether they want to be fed through a feeding tube or hydrated with intravenous fluids if they fall into a coma. Some directives also specify what kind of palliative care the patient wants, such as medication for pain or nausea.

While living wills are generally binding if the patient is unresponsive, conscious patients can override their living wills at any time, reports the ACS. Although living wills are a useful document, the patient's current wishes are given more importance. Some states also require people to renew their living wills periodically, so advance directives that were created earlier may not be followed.

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