What is a living will?

A living will is a document that specifies what type of medical treatments you would or would not want if you were unable to communicate. These treatments may include resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration and mechanical ventilation.  Living wills are usually too narrow to apply to many common medical situations. They often use language such as “incurable or irreversible condition with no reasonable expectation of recovery.” It’s very rare that a person faces this specific situation. More often a person is faced with a small chance of recovery, but not zero; or the person may be able to “recover” but not to the same level of health. Be aware that there are differences in the legal status of living wills in each state. For example, in New York State a living will is actually not a legal document and medical decisions may not be based on it alone.

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