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Your living will: A gift.

A living will (also called advance directives) frees your loved ones from the potentially unbearable burden of wondering, on top of grieving, if they’re doing “the right thing” with your medical care. Your living will designates the plan of action for your life, or your end of life, based on your beliefs, values and most personal wishes, and ensures that plan gets implemented without guessing or disagreements.

Your living will instruct others what “quality of life” really means to you. Be very, very specific. Questions you’ll want your living will to answer are:

  • What qualifies as a life for you? What about a ‘meaningful’ quality life?
  • Does artificial ventilation (a machine breathing for you) count as living in your book?
  • How much disability are you ok with?
  • How much better would you need to get to want to stay alive?
  • What is most important to you? What is not acceptable to you?

Medical power of attorney:

Everyone should specify a medical power of attorney. If you are not legally married (or unable to marry legally), it can be unclear who is to make medical decisions on your behalf without a living will. Designate someone you trust to be able to, even under emotionally grueling conditions, implement your plan.

Domestic partnerships

(same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples over 62)

R-74 recently passed in Washington State (woo-hoo!), same-sex couples can legally marry, although your marriage is not recognized federally or in many other states. WA State Domestic partnership rules are changing for same sex couples, but, State registered domestic partnerships will continue to be recognized. See the WA State Website to stay updated – or your own state’s official Web site. Without a formal ‘domestic partnership’ in place, if you aren’t legally married, you could be blocked from your partner at the hospital or shared ownership of your home or property be challenged or taken – I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories…

Do it now:

There are some helpful guides and checklists out there, so no need to start from scratch. Download your state’s Advance Directives, check out the helpful links, or download the one I used.