Modern healthcare can help people live long and full lives. Modern healthcare can also prolong the suffering of a person who is seriously ill and can even prolong a person’s dying. Perhaps you have seen loved one who suffered needlessly because no one knew that person’s wishes.
In Pennsylvania, you have the legal and ethical right to make your own decisions about the type of healthcare you want. As long as you are well enough, your physicians will involve you directly in making decisions about your medical treatment. However, if you are unable to make decisions about your care, others will have to make these decisions for you. If others do not know your wishes about treatments you may receive treatments that you don’t want.
You should plan ahead for the time when you cannot make decisions about your medical treatment. You can give directions in advance in case you become unable to make or communicate decisions about your medical care, and:
- You are terminally ill (for example, you are dying from and incurable cancer): or
- You have no possibility of recovery from an unconscious state (for example, due to a severe stroke): or
- You have an irreversible medical condition such as advanced Alzheimer’s disease that leaves you unable to care for yourself or even unable to recognize loved ones.
You can tell others how you want to be treated by preparing an Advance Directive, commonly called a “Living Will”.
You can obtain a Living Will through the Allegheny County Bar Association.