June 14, 2012
Problems With Living Wills as Medical Technology Progresses
25% to 30% of Americans have living wills, but these documents don’t always capture a dying person’s wishes as accurately as one may think. Due to advances in life-prolonging technology, doctors are no longer able to predict outcomes with as much certainty as they could in the past.
In response to this concern, some health organizations are trying to improve living wills by providing more specificity, and some ethicists are straying from living wills and instead focusing on appointing a trusted family member or friend as your health care agent.
There can be confusion in what is meant by terms such as “meaningful quality of life,” or how “certain” a doctor needs to be of a certain outcome before a decision is made. The Wall Street Journal recommends a simplistic living will by Five Wishes. This living will is written at a middle school level, but it provides space to enter a specific state in which you would not want to live, and it prompts you for questions that other wills do not.
Ethicists suggests appointing a trusted health-care agent in lieu of a living will. These agents can substitute their judgment in for you. This eliminates the disconnect between people being unable to articulate what they want and family members misinterpreting those wishes.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
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