When people turn 18, their parents no longer have the legal right to make important decisions regarding their healthcare or to have access to their health information. Accidents and serious illnesses can happen no matter how young or old a person may be, and it is important that those over 18 have documents in place to let their loved ones know how they want important medical decisions handled on their behalf.
One of those documents, a living will, is used to outline the person's wishes regarding what life-sustaining treatment he or she would want while also stating the care he or she does not want to receive. These are used for circumstances in which the only thing keeping the person alive is life support.
It can be very difficult for families to be left with a decision to continue or end a loved one's life support. In a living will, those wishes can be made known in advance. These wills will also allow the writer to select a designated person who will inform the doctors about the writer's wishes. Some people choose to include a "do not resuscitate" provision as well. Such a provision informs medical staff that, if their heart stops beating, they do not want to be revived. Protections include such things as the requirement that two doctors must agree that the only thing keeping a person alive is life support and that nothing else can be done for them.
Health care directives can remove a tremendous burden that the person's loved ones might otherwise have. People of all ages should thus consider speaking to an estate-planning attorney. Additionally, people may also want to discuss other types of documents that may be important, such as durable powers of attorney to designate someone to handle their financial affairs in the event they are unable.