No one wants to think about catastrophic illnesses or end of life issues. But for your care givers and loved ones, a set of simple documents can be prepared to avoid confusion about what you would want to do medically should you become unable to speak for yourself. In this article I discuss three types of documents used in Washington State that will help you make sure that your end of life wishes are carried out in the way that you desire. These documents can be drafted and stored in the Washington State Living Will Registry (website ) so that your wishes are preserved.
Decide for yourself how you want to manage end-of-life issues
In the State of Washington a Living Will, or Health Care Directive, is a legal document used under two circumstances:
- When you have a terminal condition and life sustaining treatment would only prolong the process of dying, and;
- Where you are in an irreversible coma and there is no reasonable hope of recovery.
By specifying what your wishes would be in a living will you can direct your own medical care at the end of your life.
“Who will make decisions for me when I can’t?”
Another important health care document that everyone should have is called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, or Medical Power of Attorney. This document lets you name a “health care agent”, a person who you trust who is authorized to make medical decisions for you regarding treatment if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.
Make your wishes known to your health care provider
The Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a form signed by your physician that takes your wishes as expressed in your living will and medical power of attorney and provides clear directions for medical orders regarding such specific medical interventions as antibiotics, fluid and nutrition, and life sustaining treatments should you become incurably ill.
Preparing these documents in advance ensures that in the event of a medical emergency or crisis your wishes will control the situation and you will lessen the stress of those around you.